Previous employee at RFSL Stockholm dismissed

RFSL

In 2020, RFSL Stockholm dismissed one of the organization’s employees, following serious allegations of sexual abuse and rape. Having learned about these allegations,  the board of RFSL Stockholm commissioned an external investigation, led by an expert from the security company 2Secure AB, and proceeded to suspend the employee for the duration of the inquiry. After 2Secure had submitted their final report to the Board, a decision was made to immediately dismiss the employee. It is currently known, that the former employee will likely be facing charges for sexual abuse and rape.

Since RFSL Stockholm was alerted to the abovementioned allegations, the organization helped several of the survivors with counselling and provided support in filing their respective police reports. Members of the organization have cooperated with the authorities in every possible way, and RFSL Stockholm welcomes that the police and the prosecutor’s office have taken the investigation further.

RFSL Stockholm feel betrayed by the former employee. What happened is devastating and appalling, because members were harmed by an employee whose work was meant to help them. Such actions are unforgivable, and go against everything RFSL and RFSL Stockholm stand for. For this reason, and because one can never say for sure that enough has been done to prevent or tackle such situations, RFSL Stockholm is looking into what could be done differently in the future. At the moment, RFSL is looking over routines, guidelines and training materials for employees, volunteers and elected representatives. RFSL Stockholm’s and RFSL’s work must take place in secure rooms and be a safe space for visitors, members and clients.

RFSL is against all forms of sexual abuse and stands for a clear set of values: we must protect and support LGBTQI people who are exposed to violence, threats and hatred. If a person becomes involved in, or exposed to, sexual acts without their consent or due to their dependency on the perpetrator – this is abuse and expression of power, not sexuality. Sexual acts that harm or cause suffering can never be accepted.

 

Questions and answers about the case

 

What is your assessment of the situation?
We are devastated. What happened is dreadful and utterly unacceptable. RFSL and RFSL Stockholm strongly condemn all forms of sexual abuse. RFSL Stockholm terminated the employee and the case was handed over to the police. Our organization and team advocate for some of society’s most vulnerable. This includes undocumented individuals, newcomers, who cannot be open about their sexuality without risking their safety. What occurred is totally unacceptable, inflicted unimaginable harm to those in most need of support and it has damaged our organization tremendously.

What concrete measures did you take?
When RFSL Stockholm was first alerted to the alleged offenses, the organization took immediate action and launched an internal investigation. The organization did not want to act externally or file a police report against the victim’s will. At that time, the victim did not want to file a police report due to being undocumented. Unfortunately, at the time the internal investigation did not provide enough evidence for legal action against the alleged perpetrator, nor was it able to reveal the scale of the abuse which has since been made clearer.

A revision of RFSL’s internal guidelines was initiated to improve and strengthen necessary prevention mechanisms. When the victim later indicated they were ready to give additional information and file a police report RFSL Stockholm assigned an external security firm with relevant expertise to investigate the case and immediately suspended the employee for the duration of this inquiry.

Members and staff were informed and were encouraged to participate in the external investigation. The findings of the external inquiry were then handed over to the police to aid the criminal investigation.

How have you supported the victims?
RFSL Stockholm has offered the victims help with filing police reports on their own terms, assisted by an external investigator. RFSL Stockholm has also offered professional counselling outside the organization. In addition, RFSL Newcomers has provided important support through volunteers and peer groups. It cannot be said that RFSL Stockholm has done enough, when an alleged perpetrator has been working in the organization, for this reason RFSL Stockholm must continue to review guidelines and policies and ensure the provision of the best possible support.

Where can you turn for support?
If you have questions, information or are in need of support, you can contact the National Office of RFSL at  forbund@rfsl.se. People in need of support who want to remain anonymous can contact RFSL Support Service at the national office by email at stod@rfsl.se or by calling 202-34 13 16, where you can also be referred to support outside RFSL.

How can I share additional information with RFSL?
Any additional information pertaining to the current case is important for our continued effort of improving the organisation and providing the best possible support to vulnerable LGBTQI people. Contact forbund@rfsl.se to read our whistleblower policy.

Why did you choose to hire an external actor instead of going directly to the police?
RFSL Stockholm hired an external investigator with special expertise to help the victims file police reports on their own terms, as well as to collect information and evidence about the alleged offenses and verify grounds for termination of the alleged perpetrator. Members and staff were informed and
were asked to contribute to the external investigation. The external investigation was handed over to the police to aid in the criminal investigation. RFSL Stockholm deeply regrets that there are those who perceive the organization’s choice not to file a police report as a sign that RFSL Stockholm did not want a police report filed. RFSL Stockholm wanted to support the victims in alerting the authorities on their own terms.

How could this happen?
We are distraught and devastated that this could happen. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, and many feel deceived by the alleged perpetrator. The fact that this could happen, clearly shows that RFSL Stockholm needs to question how guidelines and policies are written and has therefore initiated a revision. RFSL Stockholm has, for example, identified clearer communication channels and ways of working with the whistleblower policy, but we must do more. The accused employee was terminated with immediate effect.

Why was the police report delayed after the first accusation in July 2019?

RFSL Stockholm encouraged the victim to file a police report, but did not want to act externally or alert the authorities against the victim’s will. At that time, the victim did not want to file a police report due to being undocumented.

A police report could have been filed, but if sufficient evidence is not submitted the police cannot take further action and will therefore close the investigation. The individual who files the report has to identify themselves as a witness, victim or perpetrator and experienced (heard,seen or been a victim of) something considered a crime.

A police report can therefore not be expected to lead to an arrest if these criteria are not met. An organisation can support a victim or witness with the process of reporting a crime so that a police investigation can be effectively made.

When RFSL Stockholm was first alerted to the alleged offenses, the organization took immediate action and launched an internal investigation in order to establish what measures to take against the employee. When the victim later indicated they were ready to give additional information and file a police report RFSL Stockholm assigned an external security firm with relevant expertise, to investigate, immediately suspended the alleged perpetrator for the duration of the investigation and made sure to support the victim with filing a police report on their terms.

Were any of the victims minors?
The external investigation does not indicate that there were any minors among the victims.

Why didn’t you act faster?
RFSL Stockholm must, of course, be self-critical about how the situation has been handled and review what could have been done differently. RFSL Stockholm deeply regrets that our actions may be perceived as slow. Having said that, we would like to explain that when the allegations of abuse were first brought up, RFSL Stockholm took immediate action and launched an internal investigation. The organization did not want to act externally or file a police report against the victim’s will. At that time, the victim did not want to file a police report due to being undocumented. Unfortunately, at the time, the internal investigation did not provide enough evidence for legal action towards the alleged perpetrator, nor was able to reveal the scale of the abuse that has since then become clearer.

A revision of RFSL’s internal guidelines was initiated to improve and strengthen necessary prevention mechanisms. When the victim later indicated they were ready to give additional information and file a police report, RFSL Stockholm assigned an external security firm with relevant expertise to investigate the case. The organization also immediately suspended the alleged perpetrator for the duration of the investigation and made sure to support the victim with filing a police report on their terms. Based on the findings of the external inquiry, the employee in question was terminated with immediate effect. Members and staff of the organization were informed and encouraged to participate in the external investigation.
The findings and materials pertaining to the external inquiry commissioned by the Board of RFSL Stockholm were handed over to the police to aid in the subsequent criminal investigation.

How have you informed the members about this? 
When the external investigation was launched, RFSL Stockholm held an information meeting, produced information material for members on the premises, sent letters to our members and posted
information on RFSL Stockholm’s website (February/March 2020). Members and staff were informed and were encouraged to participate in the external investigation.

When the investigation was finalized, RFSL Stockholm communicated this in letters to our members and on our website (June, 2020). RFSL Stockholm deeply regrets, that there are those who think that there has been insufficient information and is prepared to be self-critical about what could have been done better.

Have you filled the position?
No, RFSL Stockholm has not filled the dismissed employee’s position. RFSL Stockholm believes that other systems are a better support for the target group at present.

What are your current guidelines?
We have established whistleblowing routines, as well as Common rules against discrimination, abusive discrimination and harassment and work regularly with quality assurance both within RFSL Stockholm and within RFSL in general.

RFSL Whistleblower-policy

RFSL’s code of conduct for elected representatives

Common rules against discrimination, abusive discrimination and harassment

Providing a safe space to our members, visitors and clients is of utter importance to us, especially considering RFSL Stockholm’s work with some of society’s most vulnerable groups. We believe that our failure to ensure this safety is unacceptable and for this reason, RFSL is currently undertaking a revision of internal structures and existing guidelines and policies, especially pertaining to the sensitive areas of work (e.g. whistleblower policy).