A new study shows that over 200 cases of sexual assault and abuse have been reported at Sweden's Sis home in recent years. Most of the acts have been carried out by male staff at the authority. The fact that girls at the state authority responsible for the compulsory care of young people are subjected to violence is nothing new, says Jenny Westerstrand, chairman of the National Organization for Women's Shelters and Young Women's Shelters in Sweden, Roks.
"It has come to light several times that girls in society's care are sexualized and violated in sexual ways and this is nothing different from society at large. But if you're locking someone up and you're going to nurture them, you can't have forms that allow this to happen — and not to this extent, it's completely senseless," she says.
Many of the girls have been subjected to prostitution earlier in life and need the right kind of support, Jenny Westerstand points out. But once they get support, as the report describes, it can instead get even worse.
"This is a gigantic problem that we need to get to the bottom of. It doesn't just concern the Sis homes, but since there is compulsory care there and in the hands of the community, it is extra serious of course.
"Let the girls be with women"
To the news agency TT, Elisabet Åbjörnsson Hollmark, Director General at Sis, has said that one of the ambitions going forward is to hire more women, with a goal of 70 percent women in homes for girls. At Rok's women's shelters and girls' shelters, the vulnerable are met only by women. According to Jenny Westerstrand, this is something that sis homes should also apply.
Jenny Westerstrand also points to a lack of knowledge about gender and violence - and how to react to exposure to violence.
" How difficult it can be to put into words what you have been through, how you need to be met with understanding and how you need to lift guilt and shame from this group.