On Tuesday, Norwegian police published a report on a remote area in their Tysfjord municipality, where they’ve found over 150 cases of alleged sexual assault.
CNN reports that the entire municipality only has 2,000 residents, and the crimes recorded took place over many decades, starting in 1953. The most recent allegedly took place in August of 2017.
Of the 151 cases, 43 involve rape, including three assaults on children. Sexual intercourse with children under 14 is the alleged offense in 40 of the cases.
The youngest of the 82 victims is four years old, while the 92 suspects are between 10 and 80 years of age, according to the report.
The village where the abuse took place is mainly inhabited by the Sami community, an ethnic minority in northern Scandinavia. Police stated that there was “no reason to believe that ethnicity or belief in itself can explain the extent of the assaults,” but added that the community is close-knit, with strong family ties, and people have been fearful of what coming forward would do to those connections.
Vibeke Larsen, president of the Sami Parliamentary Council, said that there is also less trust amongst the Sami people towards police:
In the past, Sami people have often been told to become “good Norwegians and leave their own culture, language and symbols behind,” she explained. “That’s why they have distrust in the system.”
“They try to fix their problems in their own communities, their own families, and not use the system as it should be used,” she said.
Officials began their investigation into the accusations following a report in Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang in June 2016, in which 11 people came forward with their stories. Police Chief Tone Vangen apologized in a news conference about the failure of the department to investigate crimes and support victims within the Sami community preceding this exposé. Their own report revealed many cases of child neglect and abuse, in addition to the alleged sexual assaults.
“Although many of the cases occurred a long time ago, it is still hard to understand that no one has seen anything or intervened,” the report said.