Let’s be honest about these attacks on immigrants

Following the widely reported sexual assaults in Cologne, Melanie Phillips has implored us to face up to the difficult facts and accept the unpalatable truth; to wit – a reluctance to accept the cultural factor fuelling sexual pathologies is to blame for allowing these outbreaks of sexual violence.

In her article (a non-paywalled version of which can be found here), she draws the conclusion that the influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe is creating a perilous situation for the local women, who are deemed inferior and despised by these Muslim men. As evidence of this, we are told it is Muslim immigrants driving increases in the incidence of rape in Sweden over the previous ten years; hardly surprising considering their culture is so misogynistic, or so Melanie would have it. Attempts to define this fundamentally as a male problem as opposed to a Muslim problem are misguided, and various Swedish studies are cited to support this.

These include a 2002 study by Anne Christine Hjelm for the University of Karlstad, and a 1996 report for the Brottsförebyggande rådet (BRÅ) or Swedish National Crime Council. On top of these we are told that:

Over the past ten years, Sweden has taken in proportionately more Muslim migrants than any other European country. It has developed at the same time an incidence of rape ten times that of other European states.

These firm and definitive conclusions do initially seem to be supported by adequate evidence, and thus Melanie’s argument has a superficial appeal. However, the most strident opinions require the strongest foundations, so it is worth delving a little deeper and examining these in a little more detail.

Starting with the correlation between the increase in Muslim immigration and the incidence of rape, it is true that since 2005 Sweden has seen a dramatic increase in the number of rapes.

However, what Melanie fails to mention is that in 2005 there was a change in the methodology of how rapes were classified and reported. This meant that if a man took advantage of a woman while she was passed out, asleep or intoxicated, this was now considered rape, rather than serious sexual assault as it was previously. It also meant that in circumstances such as gang-rape, where a woman was raped by a number of men, it would now be recorded as multiple instances of rape, rather than a single incident. Marital rape, if carried out numerous times over an extended period, would now be recorded as separate incidents. Since 2005 there have been further changes still, such as the 2008 ruling that digital penetration of the vagina of a woman either sleeping or intoxicated is comparable to intercourse, and is therefore rape.

The BRÅ sociologist Klara Selin had this to say on the increase in rape in Sweden:

“There might also be some increase in actual crime because of societal changes. Due to the internet, for example, it’s much easier these days to meet somebody, just the same evening if you want to. Also, alcohol consumption has increased quite a lot during this period.

“But the major explanation is partly that people go to the police more often, but also the fact that in 2005 there has been reform in the sex crime legislation, which made the legal definition of rape much wider than before.”

As well as this assessment, a 2010 Amnesty International report on rape in Nordic countries states that in 2006, whilst ‘classic’ rape by a stranger who suddenly attacks a woman had decreased, the incidence of rape by a superficial acquaintance had gone up, accounting for approximately 40% of all rapes. Gang-rapes had also seen a marked increase, accounting for 18% of all rapes. In 80% of these cases, the victim knew the perpetrators.

In addition to these, a separate BRÅ study, looking at approximately 90% of all consummated rapes from the years 1995 and 2000, documents the impact of similar legislative changes in 1998:

It does appear to be the case however that a legislative change introduced in 1998 has led to certain offences that would previously have been recorded as sexual coercion or attempted rape, subsequently being recorded as consummated crimes. It is likely that this change may explain some part of the substantial increase in the number of reported rapes over recent years.

It is not possible to exclude the possibility that the dramatic increase in reported rape offences may at least to some extent be the result of an increase in the propensity to report these crimes to the police. On the whole, however, no support was found for interpretations suggesting that this factor, even taken in combination with the effects of the legislative change referred to above, would be sufficient to explain any major part of the increase in the number of reported rapes. Thus it has not been established, but it does not appear unlikely, that the number of rapes committed has in fact increased.

Perhaps a safer strategy would be to look at how the conviction rates changed, as if the incidence of rape was being driven up by the increase in immigrants it would stand to reason there would be a higher rate of convictions. Looking at the data (found here) for 2005-2014, this isn’t the case; there are fluctuations, and some years are higher than others, but the linear and consistent year-on-year increase we would expect to find simply doesn’t exist. Rather, the average is around 190 per year, with variations either side of that.

Bearing these in mind, does Melanie’s conclusion that the tenfold increase in Muslim immigration has caused the tenfold increase in rapes seem fair? It begs the classic question, does correlation equal causation?

Moving onto the Swedish studies, we are presented with some startling statistics regarding immigrants’ predilection for rape; the 2002 study found that:

85 per cent of those sentenced to at least two years in prison for rape were foreign born or second-generation immigrants.

And the earlier 1996 report found that:

immigrants from north Africa were 23 times as likely to commit rape as Swedish men.

Shocking indeed. The first thing to say about both of these statistics is they are not entirely untrue. However, the second thing to say is that they are not particularly reliable, either.

Starting with the 85% statistic; Anne Christine Hjelm looked at 2391 cases brought to the Svea Hovrätt, or Swedish Court of Appeal. Of these 2391 cases, 91 were selected for qualitative analysis, and of these 91, 27 were used to generate the statistics used in the study. What should be noted here is that 27 people is an absolutely minuscule sample size, highly likely to lead to anomalous results and not sufficient enough to provide robust data that can support meaningful conclusions. In Sweden rape carries a mandatory sentence of 24 months; 2005 saw 185 convictions for rape and 31 for aggravated rape, in 2006 there were 197 and 30 respectively (data can be found here). Given this, it is highly probable the data is based upon less than 10% of the convicted rapists in prison. Therefore this headline 85% figure should be taken with a generous pinch of salt.

What that 85% figure actually means is that of the 27 people looked at, 23 – or 85% – were foreign born or the children of immigrants. This can be broken down further still:

Those originating in the Middle East and North Africa stand out, accounting for at least 23% of the rape cases also Africa, excluding North Africa, which accounts for at least 15% of the rape cases. Together the Middle East and Africa account for at least 38% of the rape cases.

If South and Central America (7%) and Asia (7%) are added to the equation, non-European immigrants account for at least 52% of the rape cases. When 22% of rapists are unknown, or confidential, non-Nordic, foreign background, the actual proportion of non-European rapists or rapists or originating in Africa or the Middle East, is probably considerably higher. Only 15% of those convicted perpetrators were of Swedish background.

Looking at the actual numbers:

– 6 are from the Middle East or North Africa (23%)
– 4 are from the rest of Africa (15%)
– 2 are from South and Central America (7%)
– 2 are from Asia (7%)
– 6 (22%) are of unknown foreign background (it should be noted, in a study whose raison d’être is to determine the impact of background on criminality, having this level of ambiguity when the sample group has been chosen so selectively is disappointingly poor practice)
– 4 are from Sweden (15%)
– the remaining 3 (11%) we must assume by default are from Europe, North America or Australasia

(Allowing for some small error margins due to rounding)

So what sort of solid conclusions can be drawn from this data?

The truth is, not really any. Can we draw the kinds of conclusions Melanie has reached – that Sweden’s rape problem lies predominantly with Muslim men of Middle Eastern or North African origin? Not unless we are to also conclude that this problem is actually more of a ‘Western’ society issue – after all, 27% of the rapists in Sweden are from Europe, North America or Australasia, versus just 22% from the Middle East and North Africa. This amply demonstrates the inherent problem with having such a small sample size, and the pitfalls involved in trying to discern anything meaningful from it.

Any conclusions drawn simply aren’t that reliable.

And of course, that’s not even to address the implicit assumption that by ‘Middle Eastern’, we naturally mean Arab and Muslim – when actually, based on the limited information given, it would be equally as valid to assume they were Jewish, or indeed Christian.

Moving onto the 1996 report, we are told that immigrants from North Africa are 23 times more likely to commit rape than Swedish men. This is based on the fact that from 1985-1989 – per thousand people – there are 0.2 Swedes registered for rape, and 4.6 for people from Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia; or another way of expressing this is to say 0.02% of the Swedish population are rapists, compared to 0.46% of those specified North African countries.

Unlike the Karlstad University study, these figures have not been based upon a selectively sampled group, but rather on the entire populations. This means that from a methodological point of view, its approach is far more rigorous, and as a result its conclusions will be more robust. There have been adjustments made for age, focusing on those 15-45, to ensure that Swedes are not over-represented by the fact that they are much more likely to be children or older. Indeed, unlike the Karlstad University study, which displayed poor practice, the BRÅ report employs pretty much best practice within the scope of the information made available.

However, that’s not to say there are not inherent flaws.

Firstly, and undoubtedly most importantly, the report deals with the number of people registered for particular crimes – not the number of people convicted of those crimes. The number of people registered actually relates to those suspected of a crime by the police, the rationale for this being that – due to the idiosyncracies within Swedish law – those suspected of crimes are recorded in a more specific fashion than those convicted of crimes; for instance a convicted theft is simply recorded as theft, whereas a suspected theft will be recorded as vehicular etc.

Conflating the suspicion of committing a crime with actually being prosecuted for it throws into doubt one of the cornerstones of justice – the presumption of innocence. Saying that immigrants are much more likely to be suspected of committing a crime is not the same as saying they are much more likely to commit crime.

Secondly, there is still a slight problem with the sample size. The report encompasses the entire population of both Swedes and immigrants. For the Swedes this is a total of 2,920,700 people, and for the immigrants from Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia this is 3,023 people. In others words, there are approximately a thousand times more Swedes than North Africans – which therefore means that when creating a per-thousand figure for these statistics, each individual North African is disproportionately more significant than an individual Swede.

Once again, we can illustrate this by looking at the actual numbers: 0.46% of 3,023 means that there were 14 (suspected) rapists of North African origin. 0.02% of 2,920,700 means there were 584 (suspected) rapists that were indigenous Swedes. To demonstrate how each individual North African becomes disproportionately significant we could round the number of Swedes up to the nearest hundred. Taking 600 suspected rapists amongst a population of 2,920,700 gives a per-thousand figure of 0.205 – almost identical to the original figure of 0.2. However, add the same additional 16 people to the North Africans and it changes things massively: 30 suspected rapists amongst a population of 3,023 gives a per-thousand figure of 9.9 – more than double the original figure, and now suggesting North Africans are 48 times more likely to commit rape than a Swede.

Because the indigenous Swedes are a thousand times more populous, each individual North African becomes a thousand times more significant. Even if we were to add just one additional rapist to the North African statistics, it has a marked impact; now the number of suspected rapists per-thousand figure would be 5, suggesting North Africans are 25 times more likely to commit rape than Swedes. If we consider the impact of an additional Swedish rapist, the result is so infinitesimally small it would not even show up.

Does this completely invalidate the suggestion that there may be a cultural factor involved in sexual violence? Well no; looking at a different minority group, that of immigrants from Taiwan, China and Japan, we can see that there are 2,032 of them, with a non-existent per-thousand figure for rape. Other countries with nobody suspected of rape include Austria, the Soviet Union (recall these figures are from 1985-1989), India, Korea and Thailand. The size of each of these immigrant populations is, respectively; 2,091, 1,233, 2,923, 4,281 and 1,887. If the problem could simply be dismissed as anomalies due to sample size, and assume that every nationality is equally likely to commit rape, then we should see this phenomenon of over-representation replicated for every group or nation.

The fact there is not suggests that there could be a higher risk factor involved with people from certain countries. To dismiss concerns outright is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, given that there are some concerns regarding anomalous or disproportionate over-representation we should temper our conclusions and refrain from making them too definitive or absolute.

And here we reach the crux of the matter. The state of the debate as it is today. Echoes of that all-too-familiar refrain “we’re not allowed to talk about immigration!” whilst simultaneously ignoring the fact that it is far more likely that conversations about rape will be sidelined and ignored. It’s probably fair to say that Melanie Phillips could be considered one of the more ‘hawkish’ commentators when it comes to immigration, particularly if it involves Muslims. Though the article purports to express concern for the European women at risk, the nominal premise is swiftly superseded by concerns about the influx of Muslims into Europe, and herein lies the most fundamental problem with it.

After such shocking events, the conversation we need to be having is “what can we do to make women safer?” According to Melanie, the conversation should instead be “what can we do about these immigrants?”

Undoubtedly there are some fair points raised – the scandal of self-censorship applied by misguided authorities, in this instance and previously in Rotherham and such. But regarding this lack of honesty the question that demands answering is not “why have you tried to protect these perpetrators?” but rather “why haven’t you tried to protect these victims?” For ultimately, any discussion that does not put the needs of the victims past, present and (sadly) future first, runs the risk of political point-scoring that is as cheap as it is cynical.

Is Melanie as hawkish on rape as she is on immigration? Does she argue as vehemently in support of women who have been raped as she does against those immigrants suspected of it? Given her excoriation of Muslims for their disproportionate representation in the rape statistics, if we extrapolate this approach, would it not be logical that the demographic responsible for almost all rapes – men – are an equal if not greater target for her ire?

It seems not. Apparently Professor Valerie Hudson’s hypothesis that having a male-dominated sex-ratio is likely to increase the crime rate (of all crime, not simply crimes of a sexual nature) “makes little sense” to Melanie, despite all available evidence showing that men commit crimes at a far higher rate than women. To the third party observer, this hypothesis seems far more sensible and is supported by reams of reliable data in comparison to Melanie’s analysis that it is a ‘Muslim problem’.

Beyond this article, has Melanie expressed a burning desire to ensure the safety of women and introduce measures to try and reduce the incidence of rape?

In her 2002 article “Lies, damn lies, and rape statistics” Melanie suggests that only violent rape is ‘real’ rape, and that it is women’s licentious and wanton behaviour (such as smoking, drinking, carrying condoms and initiating casual sex) that has led to the trivialisation of rape. In her later 2003 article “The rape of justice” she suggests that the “steep rise in the claims of ‘date rape'” are caused by “the dramatic changes in sexual mores” and that women should take more responsibility for what happens to them. According to Melanie, the reason the courts disagree with her is because:

This contravenes the cardinal tenet of extreme feminism – the assumption that men are intrinsically rapists, wife-beaters, child abusers and generally violent individuals, that women are their prey and that society additionally loads the dice against the female sex.

And finally, from the 2010 article “Instead of giving anonymity to men charged with rape we should name their accusers” Melanie bemoans the fact that women are granted anonymity in rape cases. Apparently, whilst the “harsh cross-examination to which they were subjected, which laid bare their sexual history” was previously beyond the pale, “circumstances now are very different. Women’s sexual behaviour has changed beyond recognition. We are in a far less prissy age. Sexual modesty has gone out of the window.” Furthermore:

What has happened over recent years is that, because of the feminist hysteria over rape, the bar above which men have to prove their innocence has been raised, while the bar against women making false allegations has been lowered.

Rape has been redefined from a crime in which someone is forced to have sex against their will to cover a wide variety of non-violent sexual encounters.

So it appears that rather than being a strong advocate for introducing more protection for women, as you might suppose, in fact Melanie would rather see women shoulder more culpability; they initiate casual sex, they drink, they smoke, their sexual mores have changed. Seemingly this kind of lurid behaviour practically invites rape, or – as Melanie would have it – ‘so-called rape’. For according to Melanie the only ‘real’ rape is violent rape, and seemingly the rest can be ascribed to the ‘ultra-feminist agenda’.

Naturally these concerns are put aside when it comes to relating the increase in rapes in Sweden to the increase in immigration; in that case, they all count. But in a stroke of irony, the very things Melanie bemoans are being used to castigate men – changes in the definition of rape, abuse of statistics and the presumption that they are intrinsically predisposed to committing rape – are all things she herself is guilty of when applied to Muslim immigrants.

What is fit for the goose is not so fit for the gander apparently.

This is the mainstream position in a microcosm: we are ‘not allowed’ to talk about immigration (despite it being one of the foremost topics that is regularly discussed in print, on the radio and on television), but discussing rape and trying to make it easier for women to come forward is pandering to the hysterical feminist agenda.

What this indicates is that the agenda belongs to Melanie. The narrative she creates is one based upon the premise that “Muslim immigration is bad and should be stopped”, rather than “rape is bad and should be stopped” – an assertion that can be easily made using the same statistics she refers to. We are told that North Africans are 23 times more likely to commit rape than Swedes, a figure based upon the proportion of people from a country, suspected of committing rape, as a per-thousand figure. We have seen that what this actually means is that 14 people from Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia were suspected of committing rapes, versus 584 from Sweden. This means that based on the figures for people suspected of committing a crime, rape in Sweden is 42 times more likely to be committed by a Swede. Exact figures for the number of rapes committed between 1985-1989 are not given, but this can be extrapolated from the data and estimated to be 847 in total. That means that Melanie’s area of primary concern – the threat of a rape epidemic by North African immigrants – is based upon just 1.64% of the total number of rapes. By contrast Swedes made up 69% of the total number of rapes.

Though the study does not expressly state it, it would not be an entirely unreasonable assumption to make that men were responsible for 100% of the rapes, yet viewing the situation through the lens of it being a gender problem as opposed to an ethnic one “makes little sense” to Melanie. It seems she has a disproportionate problem with the disproportionate over-representation of different demographics. Either that, or her conclusions were predetermined from the outset, as part of an ideological world view that vilifies Muslims whilst vindicating men.

Anybody concerned with the welfare of women would focus on areas that are going to have the biggest impact, and focusing on the 14 rapes North Africans were suspected of committing is making a mountain out of a molehill. Undoubtedly, the higher risk factor posed by certain nationalities should be considered, but only as part of a broader debate as to how women can be made safer in general – and regardless of recent events in Cologne, the stark truth is that stopping immigration will not prevent women being raped. It may not even reduce it that much.

Ultimately, an honest and accurate conversation needs to happen, in a forum in which difficult discussions can take place without being derailed by hyperbolic polemics intent on hijacking the agenda so that immigration can be discussed, again. Such misuse and misrepresentation of scaremongering statistics creates an overly emotive atmosphere in which rational debate simply can’t take place, and so legislators are forced into making decisions based on what will best placate the masses, rather than what is best for the masses. ‘Hawkish’ anti-immigration commentators such as Melanie Phillips create this atmosphere, and foment these divisions, deliberately engineering an ‘us-vs-them’ mentality to promote their own agenda.

And if we truly want to seek justice for victims, and prevent new victims being created – we should ignore that agenda and promote a different one instead – one that puts the women first and concentrates primarily on how to make them safer.