We don’t know who attacked this Swedish woman

15 March 2019
What was claimed

A Swedish woman was savagely beaten by a Muslim migrant after she asked him to stop groping her.

Our verdict

A woman was physically attacked in a nightclub in Sweden after she tried to stop a man sexually assaulting her. Her description of the attacker did not mention his religion or if he was a migrant, and his identity remains unknown, so there is no basis for the claim that he was a Muslim migrant.

This article links to images that are potentially distressing.

This Facebook post has been shared over 2,000 times. It claims to show a Swedish woman who was “savagely beaten by a Muslim migrant” after asking him to stop groping her.

The photo does show a Swedish woman named Sophie Johansson. In January 2018, when she was 19, a man sexually assaulted her in a nightclub in the Swedish city of Malmö. After she hit him in order to make him stop, he punched her and hit her with a glass bottle. The photo in the Facebook post shows the injuries she suffered as a result of the attack.

The identity of the attacker is still not known. There is no evidence to suggest that he was either a Muslim or a migrant, so it is false to claim that his identity is known.

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The description of the attacker doesn’t mention his religion or if he was a migrant

We spoke to Johan Wikén, a reporter for the Swedish newspaper Metro, and contributing editor to their factchecking service Viralgranskaren.

He told us that the only description he had found of Ms Johansson’s attacker came from a news report from the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, immediately after the attack in January 2018. He translated the description for us:

"She didn't hear him talk, so she doesn't know how he sounds. But she appreciates that he was around 25 years old, around 1.75 metres tall, had a slightly stronger body structure and that he had dark hair and a dark long-sleeved shirt".

He told us that the police have since dropped the investigation.

But the story continued to grow online

Mr Wikén also pointed us to a February 2018 report from the Swedish public service broadcaster SVT.

The article explains how, the day after the attack, Ms Johansson’s sister posted a photo of her injuries online and asked for help with finding the attacker. The post got thousands of shares across the world, with a significant number of comments suggesting the attacker was a migrant and criticising the immigration policy of Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

Sophie Johansson told SVT that, as a result of the photos posted online, she received direct messages over social media accusing her of protecting the identity of her attacker.

The story also began to attract the attention of the international press. Shortly after Aftonbladet reported on it, the story was making headlines in national news outlets in both the UK and America.

All the articles reported roughly the same details as those in Aftonbladet, and none of them mention the nationality, religion or ethnicity of the attacker.

Soon after, the image of Ms Johansson was also used to falsely claim that white people were being attacked at screenings of the film Black Panther, with photos of Ms Johansson used as evidence.

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