Sex offences 

In 2021, nearly 5,400 sexual offences were reported to the Police of Finland, much more than half of which were targeted at children. In addition, the Police of Finland investigated more than 850 offences related to sexual imagery of children in 2021. 

Sexual offences include sexual harassment, sexual abuse, coercion into a sexual act, rape and sexual abuse of a child. The possession and distribution of sexual imagery of children are also punishable acts. 

A part of sex offences are unreported

Only part of sexual offences are reported to the Police of Finland. Fear or shame may prevent individuals from submitting a crime report. Furthermore, not everyone knows that they have been subject to a crime.

Sexual acts targeted at children and young people online seem to be so common that approaches may be considered ordinary. A sexual act targeted by an adult at a child is a crime, even in an online environment, and it should always be reported to the authorities. Perpetrators often have other victims, and reporting can prevent criminal activities from continuing.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment became a punishable act in Finland in 2014. According to the Criminal Code of Finland, sexual harassment means an act made by touching that violates the right of sexual self-determination.

In practice, sexual harassment means the unwanted touching of the body, such as patting the buttocks, grabbing the breasts, caressing or other groping. Harassment can take place anywhere, and the perpetrator can be known or unknown.

If you have experienced sexual harassment:

  • Memorise the perpetrator’s distinguishing characteristics if harassment took place in a public place, for example.
  • Submit a crime report as quickly as possible.
  • Seek help if you feel anxiety. We all react differently to harassment.
  • Remember that the perpetrator is responsible – harassment is not your fault.


Sex requires the consent of all parties involved. According to the Criminal Code of Finland, rape means that a person is forced into sexual intercourse by the use or threat of violence.

A situation where the other party is unable to defend themselves or express their consent to sex is also considered a rape. For example, an individual unconscious due to significant intoxication cannot give their valid consent to sex.

Rape is considered aggravated if it causes grievous bodily injury, the offence is caused by several people, especially marked psychological or physical suffering is caused, the victim is a child under 18 years of age, the offence is committed in a particularly brutal, cruel or humiliating manner, or a weapon is used or a threat of other serious violence is made. 

Attempted rape is also a punishable act.

Sexual offences against children and adolescents

According to the Criminal Code of Finland, the age of consent is 16 years. As a rule, a sexual act targeted by an adult at a child under 16 years of age meets the characteristics of a crime. If the perpetrator is the child’s parent or in a position comparable to parenthood, the age limit for the child is 18 years of age.

A sexual offence targeted at a child can be a physical act, persuading a child to such an act or attempting such an act, both in the real world and in an online environment. As a rule, sexual intercourse with a child under 16 years of age or by a parent or a person in a position comparable to parenthood with a child under 18 years of age is an aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

In 2019, a new section on the aggravated rape of a child was added to the Criminal Code of Finland. If a perpetrator is found guilty of an aggravated rape and an aggravated sexual abuse of a child, the person can be sentenced to imprisonment from four to 12 years for an aggravated rape of a child.

Sexual offences are shifting to online environments

Currently, an increasing number of sexual offences targeted at children take place in or through online services. Acts are targeted at both boys and girls, and they take place on all online platforms that are used by children. The best way to prevent such crime is to maintain a fruitful dialogue with children, also regarding their use of online services.

Sexual offences targeted at children online can include sending or requesting sexual messages, images or videos, or abuse through a web camera. Some offences that start in online services can also lead to physical encounters. Offences taken place online or acts in which a sexual image of a child has started to spread online can be as damaging to children as physical acts. 

The responsibility always rests with the adult

Interest in sexuality is part of a child’s normal development. Even if a child actively exchanges messages online, the responsibility always rests with the adult. A child’s consent to sexual messaging with an adult is irrelevant considering whether the act is a crime.

Consensual dating between young people of the same age or related sexual messaging, or the voluntary sending of images based on a mutual consent when dating do not meet the criteria for a sexual offence. By forwarding revealing images of another child or young person under 18 years of age to others or posting them on social media, a young person over 15 years of age is guilty of a crime. 

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Always notify the police if you suspect a crime

Sex offences against children are damaging and sensitive crimes. Because of the sensitivity of the matter, the offences are not always reported to the police.  A single, seemingly petty act may lead the police to a larger serial case. Perpetrators often have many victims. This is why it is important to notify the police, regardless of the severity of the incident. Early notifications can prevent several acts and stop cases that are already going on.

What if you run into a sexual offence as a bystander? Contact the local police and tell them what you know about the incident.

Authorities have a duty to notify

Many entities have the obligation to notify the police about observed sex crimes against children. This also applies to sex offences perpetrated online. In addition to different authorities, these entities include the school system, youth programmes, children’s day-care, parishes and the organisers of morning and afternoon activities for school children. 

A child sitting at a school desk with their head in their hands. An open laptop computer on the desk.