Norway Teaches Refugees About Sexual Violence: Why Not Teach Everyone?

With more than a million refugees and migrants seeking asylum across Europe, Norway is just one of many countries attempting to find a balance between forced assimilation and providing newcomers with useful tools for navigating their culture and laws.

In 2013, Norway instituted nationwide educational programs specifically catered to new immigrants that focus on gender-relations, rape, sexual violence, and both Norway’s laws and cultural climate. The non-profit organization Alternative to Violence has been training refugee center workers on how to teach and organize classes on violence both sexual and otherwise.

Sadly, the concept of immigrants posing a violent or sexual threat has been used as anti-immigration rhetoric by xenophobics and nationalists for sometime both in Norway and abroad.

According to the New York Times:

A 2011 report by Norway’s state statistical bureau noted that ‘immigrants are overrepresented in the crime statistics’ but suggested that this was not due to cultural differences but because many of the immigrants were young men.

‘It should not be surprising if groups with large proportions of young males have higher crime rates than groups with large proportions elderly women,’ the report said.

This adds up when you consider that areas where young, economically displaced men greatly outnumber women can foster a culture of toxic masculinity which can then increase sexual aggressiveness and violence.

Why are countries especially proactive about sexual violence when the perpetrator is an immigrant, particularly a non-Western immigrant? How does this play into the racialized “otherness” the West uses to justify and further colonialist attitudes about masculinity that doesn’t fit into the white patriarchy?

It’s a difficult subject to broach, especially among people who agree that something must be done about sexual violence and antiquated views of gender, but are also innately aware of the hypocrisy of specifically “teaching” it to newcomers, even when you’re a European nation that has made attempts at course correction, like Norway.

The NY Times posited:

Many question whether there is a clear link between migrants and crime. Last month, the German interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said that asylum seekers were no more prone to crime, including sexual violence, than Germans.

‘In general, the available recent trend findings show that refugees commit just as few or as many crimes as groups of the local population,” he said.

With that in mind, why can’t these classes be offered and targeted to all men (and women), particularly in areas that are heavy in young males, as that is statistically proven to be a factor in high-sexual crimes? The problem of toxic masculinity is certainly prevalent in cultures where women are still legally raped and barred from positions of power, but shouldn’t this also be taught to U.S. ex-pats who have a 42% higher rape rate than Norway?

For the first two years of this program the Norwegian government funded the cost of interpreters for these sessions and is currently reviewing the programs to see if the success and overall feedback merits further funding.

H/T: NY Times