New Swedish Movement Looking to Get Tough on Child Molesters
Back in the 1990's, Americans finally had enough of child molesters preying on their children, and incidents such as the rape-murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka sparked a popular movement that resulted in laws being passed which required convicted sex offenders to register with the authorities and make their whereabouts known. Today Mikael Skillt and his “Stop the pedophiles” network are looking to implement the same sort of laws in Sweden too, yet find the justice system is putting obstacles in their way. What will follow here is an interview with the spokesperson for this movement — but first a bit of history.
Swedish media reporting on sex offenders
If you approach the average Swedish citizen about the issue of sex offenders, you'd most likely find him or her quite frustrated with the way mass media never reveals the identity of these pedophiles. What you typically see in a newspaper article is a person covering his head in his jacket, with no name provided, not even after they've been found guilty.
About three years ago, this saw a popular movement starting to emerge which demanded these identities to become publicly known. No fewer than three websites dedicated to the matter were started by different people from the end of 2008 to about a year later — one of which was svenskapedofiler.se (Swedish pedophiles), for which activist Mikael Skillt served as the coordinator. A Facebook group called “Show the identities of pedophiles” was also launched during 2009, a group whose membership today has almost reached 150,000, in this country of not even 10 million people.
Even though Skillt and the other people running these websites were dealing only with sex offenders whom the courts had found guilty, they ran into legal trouble in the process of publicizing their verdicts. Soon the sites were reported to the Swedish Data Inspection Board for breaches of the Personal Data Act, which safeguards an individual's privacy, and they had to be shut down. Skillt's cohorts also handed out fliers in certain residential areas about convicted child molesters living there, something that led to him being reported for defamation — yet those lawsuits were never followed through, as the complainants didn't want the publicity that would accompany them.
This fall, after all the charges against him had finally been dropped, Skillt launched a new site at www.stoppa-pedofilerna.se, with the same intent as before, yet now making use of Google technology to enable visitors to the site to browse maps of offenders entered into the system in the same manner as American government sites do. This interview is about where these efforts stand today and his take on the future.
An interview with spokesperson Mikael Skillt
Q: What motivated you to launch the first of these projects?
Mikael Skillt: I got in touch with a woman who had been sexually molested, and after she told her story and it struck me how much being molested can harm a human being I decided to act. Shortly thereafter the network was founded.
Q: How would you present the network to an American audience? What is its profile like?
Mikael Skillt: It's a non-political lobby group critical of the way society is handling this issue. Our goal is to defend the children and protect them from molestation with just about any means necessary, whether current legislation supports it or not.
Q: Would you like to get in touch with Americans who have run similar projects, for assistance and moral support? Over there, they've had major popular movements in the wake of certain crimes committed against children, which has led to Megan's Law and similar legislation.
Mikael Skillt: Absolutely! It'd be incredibly rewarding being able to discuss this with people with previous experience with this kind of work but also with people who have lived under Megan's law and who can see the outcome of it in another way.
Q: Back in the 70's, we had the Geijer affair here in Sweden, where it became evident that a large portion of the political and cultural establishment had been molesting minors. This year, a famous radio personality, Pontus Enhörning, was convicted of having molested an underage child, something for which he was given a mere eight months. His name wasn't publicized in mass media either, not even after the guilty verdict. The same is true on Swedish Wikipedia, where they don't allow you to enter information about him having been convicted in the article about him. How much acceptance do you believe there is for pedophilia within the corridors of power?
Mikael Skillt: The so-called humanism is the predominant system of thought among our politicians, a belief which protects the perpetrator and gives him better support than the victims. The laws do not protect the most vulnerable among us any longer, but instead the ones who abuse the vulnerable, so I'm very inclined to feel that the ones in power consider pedophiles people worthy of protection from stigmatization and they see it as their duty to try to normalize pedophilia in order to get away from the stigmatization, all in the name of humanism.
Q: Sweden has become known the world over as a country that stands up for "progressive" values. It's also the most secularized country on the planet. What role do you feel atheism has played in our country having become so negligent when it comes to crimes against children? And do you think we can turn the tide when it comes to other moral issues as well, such as for example abortion? We're beginning to see signs that Swedes are starting to view even this issue in a different light today, that they don't feel one has the right to kill unwanted fetuses any longer. Personally I consider these sexual abuses the outer manifestation of liberal values.
Mikael Skillt: By not having a moral compass, you often tend to float in the direction which presents the least resistance.
Q: Sweden's most notorious child molester — Örebropedofilen, the Örebro pedophile (convicted in 1999 for horrendous abuses against a dozen children) — did you catch that he's been convicted no fewer than two times from within his psych ward? In 2005 and 2011. To quote Aftonbladet: "Ekudden is an open institution where the patients have free access to computers and the Internet. The men were placed there because it was felt they had made progress in their rehabilitation." How do you feel about the way society has managed this man?
Mikael Skillt: They ought to be ashamed of themselves, in this case it's obvious that the man's urges are out of control, and to protect children from his abuses one should act in a harsh and direct manner. To do this, he should be put in a closed institution where he doesn't have access to either a computer or to the Internet. Personal integrity must take a step back when faced with the right of children not to have to suffer sexual molestation.
Q: On familjeliv.se, they've got a poll on whether people are in favor of publicizing the identities of child molesters or not. So far three quarters have voted yes. It appears as if public support for the network is widespread. How much of a popular movement do you think it can become?
Mikael Skillt: I'm hoping that come the 2014 elections, we will be able to hold large manifestations all across Sweden, where we force the powers that be to listen to what the people have to say on this matter. I see this as the launch of a popular movement as large, as say, the labor movement.
Q: Several of the network's members are now facing possible lawsuits, charged with defamation for having handed out fliers with the identities of convicted child molesters. How do you think the suspects will fare in the legal system?
Mikael Skillt: History tells us it's hard to reach guilty verdicts, but I believe the government is forced to set a legal precedent now at the start of our work to be able to fight our campaign. Certainly, this isn't something that the network is concerned with, we'll work just as hard and be just as decisive no matter the verdicts. But still it's important that we get a precedent set in the Supreme Court so the state is forced to rule on the matter.
Q: Can you tell us about what legal consequences your activism within this network has brought you?
Mikael Skillt: Eight counts of defamation and one count of gross breach of the Personal Data Act (PUL) and now recently another breach of the PUL reported to the police. None of the charges have led to prosecutions. I believe what's saved me is that I've got a very good attorney representing me. And Gunnar Falk will represent me in the future as well, which I consider very reassuring.
Q: How has mass media been treating you as a person in connection with this?
Mikael Skillt: Surprisingly well, but in some cases one has attempted to discredit my person due to me having been earlier convicted of crime. But overall they've been to the point in their portrayal of the network and its efforts. I was convicted of verbal assault and criminal damage, the background being that I was protecting a friend who was about to be jumped by two immigrants.
Q: How do you feel about them indicting you for publicizing guilty verdicts while at the same time the newspapers have named and shamed assorted political dissidents as alleged "Nazis," based on rumors, and displayed them side by side with murderers such as Jackie Arklöv and similar, without having to suffer any consequences doing so?
Mikael Skillt: The agenda of many newspapers becomes blatantly obvious, one goes to any effort to discredit people guilty of thought crimes. Yet one protects one's own, in spite of these people actually having committed crimes against real people.
Q: How do you view the future of this project? Will the justice system attempt to obstruct your work by charging you with defamation and breaches of the Personal Data Act, and is there a risk that mass media might divert from the real issue by slandering your network as individuals?
Mikael Skillt: I'm optimistic about the project, we've got good support and I don't think mass media can budge that no matter how hard they attack those of us behind the project. But sure, they will oppose us at first, and then when popular support has grown large, they will befriend us. Hence business as usual. But the network doesn't forget.
Daniel Hammarberg is a Swedish national, a prolific writer, video maker and author of The Madhouse: A critical study of Swedish society. He's an avid student and critic of his own society, yet finding himself ostracised from participation in Swedish media. Visit his website at http://www.danielhammarberg.com.
Copyright © 2011 Daniel Hammarberg. Used with Permission.