Fact Check

Swedish Police Hand Out 'Don’t Touch Me' Bracelets to Stop Refugee Rapists?

Police in Sweden have introduced sexual assault awareness bracelets to distribute to young people, but not as an effort to stop "refugee rape."

Published Jun 29, 2016

Swedish police have introduced anti-sexual assault bracelets due to an increase in "refugee rape."
What's True

Police in Sweden are distributing colored bracelets as a means of engaging young people and raising awareness about unwanted sexual advances.

What's False

Swedish police did not create or distribute the bracelets in an attempt to dissuade refugees from raping Swedish women.

On 30 June 2016, the Federalist Papers web site published an article reporting that police in Sweden were distributing distinctive bracelets to "stop refugee rape":

Police in Sweden have come up with a sure-fire way to stop Middle Eastern refugees from raping local women: wristbands that read “Don’t Touch Me.”

In a press release announcing the idiotic attempt to stem the flood of women reporting being sexually assaulted, the national police announced that “groping is a crime.”

“No one should have to accept sexual molestation. So do not grope. And if you are groped, report it to the police,” said Chief Dan Eliasson, Breitbart is reporting.

Like many similar articles, the site approached the story from the assumption Sweden and other European countries had seen an uptick of sexual assaults due to an influx of refugees from the Middle East:

Notwithstanding the fact that most men bent on raping a woman aren’t going to be dissuaded by a silicone bracelet, since the surge in reports is due to Middle Eastern perpetrators, they’re unlikely to be able to read the bracelets anyway — which are written in Swedish.

Another super-cool advantage of wearing the bracelets — besides clearly providing a shroud of protection from rapists &mdas; is that it can “draw attention to the issue of sexual assault and urge those affected to report.”

Breitbart also approached the bracelets from the assumption that their production was directly and unequivocally a result of sexual assaults committed by refugees in Sweden:

It is unclear how effective the wristbands, which read “don’t touch me” in Swedish, will be in preventing attacks, as the majority of sex attack perpetrators are thought to be recent migrants who are unlikely to be able to read them.

Such articles linked to a June 2016 press release issued by police in Sweden. But the press release pertained to unwanted sexual advances among youth, it didn't
target rape, migrants, or linguistic barriers that might inhibit the bracelets' effectiveness:

Groping is a crime. In summer, the police use the bracelet to initiate conversations with young people about the problem. "No one should accept sexual molestation. So do not grope. And a police report if you have been a victim," said national police chief Dan Eliasson.

A hand tucked between the legs, a hug from behind in the crush at a club or a festival, a person who holds another while a third fondles their breasts, sexual pictures shown or sent to someone who has not asked for them. There are situations with which many young people are all too familiar.

Police are taking sexual molestation seriously, specifically among young people. It is obviously a very offensive crime that the whole community must become better at working towards preventing, said Dan Eliasson.

Now the police are being supplied with bracelets that read "don't grope" to assist them in engaging young people. The bracelets will be distributed during the summer in connection with festivals and other major events targeted to young people, to prompt both boys and girls to start talking about these problems and demonstrate that they have taken a stand.

The misinterpretations involving "rape bracelets" were related to a May 2016 report on sexual assault in Sweden. Both Swedish- and English-language news outlets either mistranslated or misconstrued the findings of that lengthy report to claim that refugees or "migrants" were responsible for an increase in sexual assaults in that country. In fact, the document primarily addressed alcohol and music festivals as high-risk factors.

A May 2015 Globe and Mail column addressed both misconceptions about "refugee rape" in Sweden and why that country appears to have a higher than average sexual assault rate than comparable countries:

[The idea that refugees are responsible for sexual assault rates] falls apart as soon as you speak to anyone knowledgeable in Sweden.

“What we’re hearing is a very, very extreme exaggeration based on a few isolated events, and the claim that it’s related to immigration is more or less not true at all,” says Jerzy Sarnecki, a criminologist at Stockholm University who has devoted his career to the study of criminality, ethnicity and age.

Sweden does indeed have far more reported cases of sexual assault than any other country. But it’s not because Swedes — of any colour — are very criminal. It’s because they’re very feminist. In 2005, Sweden’s Social Democratic government introduced a new sex-crime law with the world’s most expansive definition of rape.

Imagine, for example, if your boss rubbed against you in an unwanted way at work once a week for a year. In Canada, this would potentially be a case of sexual assault. Under Germany’s more limited laws, it would be zero cases. In Sweden, it would be tallied as 52 separate cases of rape. If you engaged in a half-dozen sex acts with your spouse, then later you felt you had not given consent, in Sweden that would be classified as six cases of rape.

The marked increase in rape cases during the 2000s is almost entirely a reflection of Sweden’s deep public interest in sexual equality and the rights of women, not of attacks by newcomers.

That op-ed included more nuanced information from Sarnecki about the relationship between immigration and crime rates in Sweden and elsewhere:

Statistics show that the foreign-born in Sweden, as in most European countries, do have a higher rate of criminal charges than the native-born, in everything from shoplifting to murder (though not enough to affect the crime rate by more than a tiny margin). The opposite is true in North America, where immigrants have lower-than-average crime rates.

Why the difference? Because people who go to Sweden are poorer, and crime rates are mostly a product not of ethnicity but of class. In a 2013 analysis of 63,000 Swedish residents, Prof. Sarnecki and his colleagues found that 75 per cent of the difference in foreign-born crime is accounted for by income and neighbourhood, both indicators of poverty. Among the Swedish-born children of immigrants, the crime rate falls in half (and is almost entirely concentrated in lesser property crimes) and is 100-per-cent attributable to class — they are no more likely to commit crimes, including rape, than ethnic Swedes of the same family income.

What also stands out is that almost all the victims of these crimes — especially sex crimes — are also foreign-born. But for a handful of headline-grabbing atrocities, it isn’t a case of swarthy men preying on white women, but of Sweden’s system turning refugees into victims of crime.

Some English-language reporting cited the anti-immigrant publication Fria Tider, but a more neutral article published by the English-language version of The Local described the bracelets and their purpose (mentioning the rumors about migrants, but not as a driving factor behind their creation) as follows:

Swedish police have launched a campaign aimed at curbing sexual harassment among young people ... A debate about sexual molestation flared in Sweden earlier this year after it emerged that groups of boys had groped girls at the We Are Sthlm youth festival for two years running.

“We’re hoping mainly that this will get boys to think twice. A lot of them don’t seem to realize that this is a crime,” national police chief Dan Eliasson told news agency TT.

Swedish police were heavily criticized for not releasing details on the total 36 reports of sexual assault and two rape allegations filed after the festivals in 2014 and 2015.

With the festival season about to kick off, police have started the new #tafsainte (Don’t grope) campaign as part of a wider plan to counteract sexual harassment among young people.

The notion that refugees in Europe (and particularly Sweden) are, among other things, sexually assaulting women at alarming rates remains prevalent. But Swedish police are not distributing "rape bracelets" as a tactic to stop a purported increase in "refugee rape."


Saunders, Doug.   "Sweden’s Rape Crisis Isn’t What It Seems."     The Globe and Mail.   13 May 2016.

The Local.   "Swedish Police to Hand Out Anti-Groping Armbands."     29 June 2016.

Polisen.   "Tafsa Inte — Och Polisanmäl Om Du Utsatts."     June 2016.

Fria Tider.   ""'Do Not Molest Me': Swedish Police Giving Out Bracelets To Girls In The Wake Of Immigrant Attacks."     30 June 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.