- Folk visste at noe var galt

Marius Bråtelund. Fotograf Per-Åge Eriksen

Marius Bråtelund was sexually abused by his father for ten years. In retrospect, he has come to realise that both neighbours and doctors understood that “something” was wrong.

Marius was six years old the first time he was raped by his father. The abuse continued until he was 16. As a result of the shame, he never told anyone about what was going on, but both neighbours and his paediatrician explained in court that they had seen signs that something was wrong, but they chose not to report their concern to either the police or Child Welfare Services.

“People knew something was going on. Especially at school. I was absent a lot and participated little in class. The neighbours heard a lot of screaming and loud noises, so I know that people knew that something was going on,” says Marius.

The duty to avert criminal acts makes it a criminal offence not to try to prevent the kind of abuse to which Marius Bråtelund was subjected – but few are aware of this duty.

Today, Marius travels around, giving lectures about both his experiences and his encounter with the system when he finally received help as a 16-year-old. He believes there is too little knowledge among those who work with children and young people about the signals that victims of abuse send out. Therefore, he is fighting to direct more focus on this in the training that teachers, social workers and child and youth workers receive.

“My paediatrician, who had seen bruises and other physical signs, chose not to report the situation. When a doctor doesn’t take the responsibility we should expect of someone in their position, I think it is a very passive approach. I think that’s sad. I understand that it’s not easy, but it must be better to send one too many notices of concern than to send one too few,” says Bråtelund.

For Bråtelund, the duty to avert criminal acts should be an important tool for those who work with people who may be the victims of abuse.

“It is something that should be taught to those who will be working with children and young people. There should be a greater focus on this topic in the relevant study programmes. There are very many who don’t know how to detect the signals that victims give out. It is also important to learn how to build trust with victims of abuse,” he says.

“There are some gaps in the way society handles this, and the duty to avert criminal acts is something people should be aware of. It could prevent a lot of suffering if more people would report what they know,” he says. Bråtelund believes that he could have been spared many years of abuse if someone had reported his situation. It would have made his life completely different.

“If someone had dared to speak out, I would have been able to get away from that environment sooner, and perhaps had a more normal childhood and adolescence. I could have been spared many delayed after-effects and traumatic memories,” he says.

Are you unsure if you have a duty to avert a criminal act? Here are five questions that may be helpful.

  1. Is it a serious criminal offence?
    The duty to avert criminal acts applies in situations where there is a risk of rape, murder, domestic violence or sexual abuse of children. These are acts covered by Section 196 of the Norwegian Penal Code.
  1. Do you know or suspect that the offence will take place?
    Sometimes you are certain, while other times you may have a nagging suspicion. It is enough that you believe it is likely that the offence will occur. Then you have a duty to avert the offence. You also have this duty if you believe there is a risk of a recurring offence.
  1. Is it possible to avert the offence?
    If you can, try to prevent the offence from occurring. If it has already taken place, you have a duty to prevent injuries and other consequences.
  1. Can I avert the offence without exposing myself or other innocent people to danger?
    You do not have a duty to avert an offence if to do so would involve endangering life and health.
  1. Can I avert the offence without being prosecuted or charged myself?
    No one has a duty to risk criminal charges against themselves or any other innocent person. If you believe that you may be prosecuted, you must try to avert the offence in some way other than notifying the police. PLEASE NOTE that this does not apply if the victim is a minor and the person who fails to avert the offence is the child’s caregiver. Then you must avert the offence even if you or others may risk prosecution or criminal charges.

– If the answer to all of these questions is “Yes”, you have a duty to notify the police or otherwise seek to avert the offence. Remember that the duty to avert a criminal act always takes precedence over a duty of confidentiality.

In emergency situations and in case of mortal danger, call the police on 112.

You can contact your local police on 02800.

If children are involved, also contact Child Welfare Services.