A 36-year-old father from Skellefteå was arrested last Monday on suspicion of repeated crimes against his wife in front of their children. The arrest happened after a family member alerted the police.
Two other men were arrested on Wednesday for similar criminal activity, and on Thursday a fourth man was arrested for a violent crime against a close female relative at the request of prosecutor Anna Nilsson.
The arrest of four men in Skellefteå within three days, in separate and unrelated legal cases, on suspicion of domestic violence crimes against close persons, marks a grim record in Skellefteå's criminal history.
David Nyström, a police officer at Skellefteå's domestic crimes unit, tells Norran:
– An important success factor in this kind of investigation is the deprivation of liberty. Since the risk of collusion, i.e. the possibility of influencing the investigation in various ways while still free, is very high in these cases, it creates the necessary breathing space for the victim to process what has happened without the risk of interference.
But with so many people in custody, aren't the police are under a lot of time pressure?
– Yes, the arrest period is of course the most intensive time of the investigation with a high workload, but it is necessary for success. It allows the police to quickly carry out necessary investigative measures, such as interviewing witnesses. Witnesses can be anyone from relatives to neighbors and co-workers.
– We know that the workplace is one of the first places where domestic problems become apparent, so I would like to emphasize that you, as a fellow human being, are always welcome to give the police a tip if you suspect domestic violence in a close relationship. If you wish, you can remain anonymous, although this is not something we prefer, but it is better to be anonymous than to say nothing at all, adds Nyström.
Åsa Lööv Wesslund at the "Center Against Violence," part of Skellefteå municipality's individual and family care, meets and helps both crime victims and those who commit violence, as well as children in distress.
– The Center Against Violence offers support to people who live or have lived in situations of violence. People can come to us if they have been subjected to violence by their partner or if they have subjected their partner to abusive, disrespectful and violent treatment.
How do you view the grim record of four men arrested in close succession for domestic violence in Skellefteå?
– When it comes to these events, it's difficult to really know. The question is whether there have been more cases of violence in close relationships or whether more people - the authorities, private individuals, the victims of violence - are reporting people who use violence against close relatives. Society's awareness of domestic violence has increased, and authorities have become better at handling cases of domestic violence. Trust in the legal system may have increased, and those who have been subjected to violence may believe that they can get help, and therefore dare to report their abusive partner, says Åsa.
– I am also pleased that the vulnerability of children in violent households is being recognized and that crimes against children are being reported. Children are greatly affected by the violence they see, hear and understand from one parent to another. The Child Peace Act of 2021 is essential to strengthen the legal protection of children who witness domestic violence, she adds.
Is it possible to draw any conclusions from the cases in Skellefteå at the moment, even though they are four different cases?
– I have no idea about the individual cases. But in our conversations we have heard stories over a long period of time about domestic violence that has been reported to the police, but has been dismissed due to a lack of evidence, or has not been reported by the victim due to a lack of trust in the justice system. Domestic violence against close relatives is unfortunately nothing new, concludes Åsa.
What is the situation at your "Center Against Violence" and what is your most important advice?
– We have about the same number of people who are exposed to domestic violence as in previous years. If you are subjected to any form of violence - physical, psychological, sexual, material, economic or digital - it is a criminal act. The person who uses any form of violence is responsible for the violence. Everyone, adults and children, has the right to live free from violence and abuse. Support and help is available.
"Walk away at the first sign of violence and file a police report" - this is the crucial message from the Skellefteå police.
However, if you are the victim of an assault or other criminal act and you do not have the strength at that moment to report it to the police, it is imperative that you seek medical attention to document your injuries. Subsequently, the police can obtain a legal certificate based on the medical records, giving a specific date of the incident. This becomes crucial evidence in a criminal investigation.
Skellefteå police officers also emphasize:
– Even if you do not have the energy or courage to file a formal complaint, it is important to confide in a close relative or friend who can provide support in various ways. This, in turn, often becomes supportive evidence during a trial - the fact that the events were discussed. You can keep a diary, note the dates of the incidents, perhaps take personal photos of injuries, and contact the Center Against Violence or Guldstadens Women's Shelter.