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.
A part of sex offences are unreported
Only a part of sex offences come into the police’s attention. Fear or shame can prevent reporting an offence. In addition, victims do not always realise that they have been victims of crime. Young people are contacted with sexual undertones so often on social media that it is considered normal and the contacts are seen as part of everyday life.
Sexual harassment became punishable in Finland in 2014. According to the law, sexual harassment means the act of touching a person in a way that violates their sexual self-determination.
In practice, sexual harassment is unwanted touching of the body, such as patting the buttocks, grabbing breasts, stroking or other groping. Harassment can occur anywhere, and the perpetrator can be a person the victim knows, or a stranger.
If you have been harassed sexually:
- Memorise the perpetrator’s description, if the harassment occurred in town, for example.
- Report the offence as soon as possible.
- If the incident causes anxiety, get help. Everyone reacts to harassment in an individual way.
- Remember that the perpetrator is responsible for the harassment. It is not your fault.
Both parties must consent to sex. According to the law, rape means forcing another person to have sex by using violence or threatening to do so.
In addition, having sex with a passed out, sick, disabled or otherwise helpless person is considered rape. It is impossible to obtain the consent of an unconscious person.
The rape is aggravated if it causes serious injuries, there are several perpetrators, mental and physical suffering is considerable, the victim is under 18 years of age, the act is especially cruel or it involves threatening with serious violence or, for example, an edged weapon.
Attempted rape is also punishable.
Sexual offences against children and adolescents
A sexual act targeted at a child under 16 years of age, damaging the child’s development, is sexual abuse of a child. Sexual abuse of a child is judged also if a person has sex with a child under the age of 16.
The most severe form is aggravated sexual abuse of a child. It is a very damaging crime against a child, in which the perpetrator may have been, for example, in a trusted position for the child, or the crime is committed in a particularly humiliating way.
Molesters lurk online
Nowadays, sex offences towards children very often take place on the internet or through it. Sexual abuse of children online is a global problem and its victims include both girls and boys.
On the internet, sex offences against children can be, for example, sending and requesting messages, photographs or videos of a sexual nature or abuse through a webcam. A part of the crimes that started online lead to a physical meeting and intercourse.
The adult is always responsible
Even if the child takes the initiative in messaging, the adult is always responsible. In sex offences against children, also the child’s parents are injured parties.
If the parties are close in age, it is not necessarily a sex offence. A conversation with sexual tones between two 15-year-olds can be normal and may not contain any abuse. Young people send each other nude photos. Possession of a sexually offensive picture depicting a child is a crime. In this, the young people themselves are guilty of an offence by keeping photos in their possession. This also has to do with “revenge porn” when the photos of an ex-partner are distributed.
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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.