A quarter of the women selected at random for the study, all aged 18-80, said they had been subjected to “sexually offensive conduct” before turning 16, newspaper Dagsavisen reports.
In all, just over half the women in the study and more than a fifth of the men said they had experienced some form of sexually offensive behaviour.
“These are alarmingly high figures,” said psychologist Iris M. Steine at the Universtity of Bergen.
“Sexual abuse is a very serious problem. The high occurrence and the high risk of injury shows there’s a clear need for preventive measures,” she told Dagsavisen.
Under Norwegian law, the term “unsolicited sexual relations” covers the most serious sex crimes, including rape and sexual assault.
Some 11.4 percent of women said they had experienced unsolicited sexual relations before their 16th birthday, while 16.3 percent of female respondents said they first fell victim to serious sex offences after turning 16.
24.3 percent of the women surveyed said they had come into contact with sexually offensive behaviour while still under the age of 16. This category included witnessing indecent exposure and being shown pornography.
For the study, sex offences were defined more broadly than in Norwegian law to include several forms of non-physical abuse and harassment, a factor that contributed to higher than usual figures for a survey of this kind.
Regardless of this discrepancy, children’s ombudsman Anne Lindboe said she was in no way surprised to learn that sexual abuse of all kinds is widespread in Norway.
“It’s a major problem. This is something a lot of children fall victim to, and which they carry with them and don’t dare talk about,” she said.
A total of 706 people participated in the study, 55 percent of whom were women and 45 percent men.