Norway police uncover 150 cases of rape and assault in remote region

A Sami activity center in the village of Drag in the Norwegian Tysfjord municipality, where police have uncovered 151 cases of sexual assault.

(CNN)More than 150 cases of alleged sexual assault have been uncovered in a remote region in northern Norway, according to a police report published Tuesday.

The alleged crimes stretch over several decades, with some dating back to 1953 and the most recent occurring in August this year. They all took place in the rural municipality of Tysfjord, which has only around 2,000 inhabitants.
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.
    Police said most of the alleged suspects and victims belong to the Sami community, formerly known as Lapps, an ethnic minority group descended from nomadic peoples who inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years.
    "I'm very sad for the community," Vibeke Larsen, president of the Sami Parliamentary Council, an elected body that promotes the interests of the Sami in Norway, told CNN. "They've been through a hard process and they have a hard process ahead of them."

    'A national tragedy'

    A report by the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang in June 2016 prompted the police investigation. In an article for the paper during the course of the probe, Larsen described the scandal as "a national tragedy" and called for help from national authorities.
    "The extent of the tragedy has become so great that it is not realistic to believe that a small municipality will be able to handle this alone."
    The Tysfjord municipality in northern Norway is home to about 2,000 people.
    She also praised the people who had come forward to tell their stories. "By breaking taboos about sexual assault, they are in a position to change the society they are part of."
    The majority of the roughly 65,000 Sami live in Norway, with other communities in Sweden, Finland and Russia. There are three different -- and mutually unintelligible -- Sami languages.
    Periodic attempts to assimilate these communities into Scandinavian societies have often been met with resistance by the Sami, many of whom are keen to preserve their culture and traditions.
    Many of the people involved in the alleged crimes were also affiliated with the Laestadian Church, a conservative Lutheran revival movement, according to the report.