Imagine a quiet evening in December. Imagine Halldór Ásgrímsson, prime minister, lighting a candle with his family after dinner. Imagine his family members decorating the house. Imagine the scent of cookies, hot chocolate and pine.
Suddenly, there’s a visitor at the door. Having earned Ásgrímsson’s trust by pretending to be a friend, Ásgrímsson agrees to come with the visitor to his house. Imagine the visitor inviting Ásgrímsson inside for a drink. Imagine them lifting their glasses in a toast. Imagine Ásgrímsson smiling at the visitor, unsuspecting. Imagine them sharing a laugh.
Without warning, the look in the visitor’s eyes changes. Imagine the feeling in Ásgrímsson’s gut when he realises that he’s been set up.
The visitor starts hitting Ásgrímsson repeatedly in the face and all over his body. Imagine Ásgrímsson’s sinking feeling when he’s overpowered by the visitor. The visitor shoves Ásgrímsson down a staircase. Imagine his life flashing before him while tumbling down the steps. The visitor proceeds to tear off Ásgrímsson’s clothes and rape him in all ways imaginable. Imagine the pain, fear and humiliation Ásgrímsson experiences during this. The visitor then forces a wooden cup holder into Ásgrímsson’s rectum, and slices his neck with a cheese slicer.
Crying, and covered in his own blood and feces, Ásgrímsson begs his visitor to allow him to shower. The visitor turns on the shower with scalding hot water and throws Ásgrímsson in it, where he receives burns from the hot water, and a severe beating from the visitor.
Imagine the rapes and beatings continuing for three hours. Imagine Ásgrímsson saying a quiet goodbye to his family in his head, thinking he’s not going to survive the attack.
Imagine, that for some miraculous reason, Ásgrímsson escapes. After a medical examination including a photo session of Ásgrímsson’s tattered and torn genital area, evidence of severe sexual violence is collected, including a wooden splinter from Ásgrímsson’s rectum. His neck is also sprained, his eyes are swollen shut and his body is covered in bruises, cuts and burns. He has trouble talking and shows clear signs of mental trauma. The nurses avoid looking him in the eye, feeling so badly for him. Experts claim they’ve never seen a victim of such horrible violence before. His family can’t even hug him, because his body is so sore. The whole hospital ward is struck silent in the light of this disgusting crime.
Imagine Ásgrímsson taking his offender to court. Imagine the humiliating and re-traumatising process of having to tell his story over and over again, to different law enforcement officials and staff of the legal system. Imagine the agonising wait for the verdict. When the day finally arrives, Ásgrímsson’s offender, rapist and betrayer of his trust is sentenced to three years in prison. Imagine the sentence echoing in Ásgrímsson’s head: Three years in prison.
This is fiction, of course. Halldór Ásgrímsson has never been the victim of a heinous assault such as described above. He doesn’t wake up with nightmares in the middle of the night, or avoid physical contact with other people. He’s not been damaged for life, because it didn’t happen to him. It happened to a 17-year-old Icelandic girl.
According to Icelandic law, all persons are equal. If the perpetrator had decided to rape, beat and torture Ásgrímsson in the same fashion as he did his victim, he should’ve received the same three years in prison according to the law. In fact, he should’ve gotten an even milder sentence, because Ásgrímsson is not an underage minor. Yes, he is the prime minister. However, if the motive for an attack on a national leader is not of a political nature, the attacker receives the same punishment as he would for attacking any other citizen. That’s the Icelandic law.
As a reader, do you think the sentence would’ve been three years or less had Halldór Ásgrímsson been the victim of the aforementioned assault? Do you think this country fails to protect all of its citizens, or is it just the women and children, the typical victims of sexual and domestic abuse, who are left out in the cold?
Think about it. As long as sentences for these types of crimes are as stunningly insufficient as they currently are, we need to use our imagination and keep asking these questions.
(Note: The graphic violence above does not come from the twisted mind of the columnist, but from the actual case description at the website of the Supreme Court of Iceland – www.haestirettur.is)