Svenska kyrkan

New research report on sexual harassment

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A new research report, "#Vardeljus-uppropet" (the Let There Be Light Campaign), highlights the importance of the Church of Sweden’s work over 20 years to combat sexual harassment and abuse. At the same time, the report identifies structural problems with boundary-setting in, for example, what is considered permissible. The report is a qualitative analysis of the #MeToo campaign in the Church of Sweden.

#Vardeljus-uppropet was signed by 1,382 women in the Church of Sweden (screenshot from www.vardeljus.blog).
#Vardeljus-uppropet was signed by 1,382 women in the Church of Sweden (screenshot from www.vardeljus.blog).

In the study, Dr. Gunilla Carstensen of Stockholm University analysed nearly 400 stories shared by women employees in the Church of Sweden during the 2017 #MeToo campaign, with the hashtag #vardeljus.

"It is pleasing that the report shows that 20 years of work in the Church of Sweden to combat sexual harassment and abuse have yielded results. At the same time, it shows shortcomings, and that this work has not been enough," says Erik Gyll, Coordinator for Rights And Gender at the Central Church Office, Uppsala.

Analysis of the stories reveals a few overarching perspectives:

  • The time perspective – the victim is in most cases at the beginning of his or her career, and the events leave deep traces that remain for a long time.
  • The perpetrator is usually a superior and a well-established person in the Church. A personal connection and a relationship of dependence are clear factors from the victim’s point of view.
  • The forms of abuse range all the way from subtle and wide-ranging verbal abuse to rape or attempted rape.
  • An environment that downplays, silences or acts passively. Some victims are not believed by their managers, and no action is taken to follow up the incident.

"The report also makes it clear that the Church's culture of hugging and forgiveness can make it difficult to draw the line between the professional and the private/personal. Grey areas and jargon allow the boundaries of what is considered permissible to shift," says Erik Gyll.

Work environment activities
The research report proposes measures and recommendations for further work by the Church of Sweden to combat sexual harassment and abuse. Carstensen points out, for example, that "preventive physical and psychological work environment activities can counteract and prevent sexual harassment and abuse".

This may include, for example, education about gender equality and criticism of standards for future church staff, employees of the Church of Sweden and voluntary colleagues.

Carstensen also points out the need for continued analysis of #Vardeljus stories, and the need to take responsibility for them, but also that groups other than employees in the Church of Sweden need to be brought into view.

#MeToo mission on behalf of the General Synod
In addition to the qualitative research report, the Central Church Office in Uppsala carried out a mission on behalf of the General Synod in 2018: Follow-up on #MeToo and #Vardeljus (KmSkr 2018:6). This report also proposes measures that the Church of Sweden should take on a nationwide basis in the fight against sexual abuse and harassment.

For example, the good work already in progress needs to be systematised and new strategies developed. One proposal is to use the Swedish Gender Equality Agency's handbook on work in the prevention of violence. The report also points out the importance of highlighting the power structure of age and gender, but also other grounds of discrimination and how they interact with risks of abuse and harassment.

It is planned that the proposals in both reports will be considered by the working committee of the Central Board of the Church of Sweden work committee as a single issue after the summer.

See Research Report #Vardeljus-uppropet (PDF, 28 pages, in Swedish).
See General Synod Report Follow-up on #MeToo and #Vardeljus (PDF, 61 pages, in Swedish).

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#Vardeljus-uppropet was signed by 1,382 women in the Church of Sweden (screenshot from www.vardeljus.blog).
#Vardeljus-uppropet was signed by 1,382 women in the Church of Sweden (screenshot from www.vardeljus.blog).
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The Church of Sweden is a national church, open to everyone living in Sweden regardless of nationality. It is a place for church services, meetings and dialogue. The Church of Sweden is an Evangelical Lutheran church with 5,9 million members. There are 3500 churches in Sweden, and 13 dioceses.

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