No. XXXVIII (2016)

Foreign Nationals as Perpetrators of Physical Abuse and Rape in the Context of Honour Based Violence

Dagmara Woźniakowska-Fajst
Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Department of Criminology

Published 2016-01-01


  • foreign nationals,
  • physical abuse,
  • rape,
  • violence

How to Cite

Woźniakowska-Fajst, D. (2016). Foreign Nationals as Perpetrators of Physical Abuse and Rape in the Context of Honour Based Violence. Archives of Criminology, (XXXVIII), 321–345.


The number of foreign nationals convicted of physical abuse in the period spanning 2004–2012 was around a dozen cases a year. The percentage of convicted foreign nationals in comparison with Poles indicted with the offence described in the provisions of Article 207 of the Polish Penal Code, was very low, i.e. 0.1%, throughout all the years studied. In the years 2004–2012, foreign nationals in Poland were convicted of 145 physical abuse offences. The perpetrators originated from 34 countries. Most of them came from Ukraine (24%), followed by Russia (12%) and Germany (7%). In the period under study, 8 convictions were secured for Armenian nationals, and 6 for Rumanian and Turkish, respectively. It should be noted that in the case of physical abuse, the aggrieved parties were mainly family members, spouses, and partners, but also children and the elderly, as well as the persons physically dependent on others for assistance in their activities of daily living (e.g. persons with disabilities). The relevant statistical data may readily be augmented by the materials gathered in the course of analysing the court’s records. Among the persons indicted for physical abuse, women are seldom the perpetrators, as only two were found in the cases analysed (28 offenders were male). The aggrieved parties were not their partners, though, but dependent individuals. The most numerous groups of perpetrators found in the court files included Russians (7 offenders) and Ukrainians (5). 7 offenders were EU citizens. Single cases were represented by other nationalities (2 Armenians, 2 Azerbaijanis, 2 Tunisians, 1 Belarussian, and 1 Iraqi). Much as in the case of other aggressive acts, numerous instances of physical abuse were related to their perpetrators’ inebriation. 18 offenders (i.e. almost 2/3 of the indicted ones) were under the influence of alcohol. The main motive of domestic violence was (besides alcohol abuse which seemed to directly trigger the outbursts of violent behaviour), some sort of conflict between family members in conjunction with an inability to alleviate it or resolve by other means. In the case of persons applying for a refugee status, long-term frustration was also found to be a contributing factor. Immediate family members of, i.e. wife, partner, children, and stepchildren aged 1–17 usually fall victim to domestic violence. In the case files under examination, a majority of the wronged women were of Polish nationality (23), 4 were Chechens, and one was an Azeri woman. In the majority of cases, where the perpetrator came from a country where Islam is the dominant religion (the perpetrator’s religious denomination was not mentioned in all the cases) and the victim was a Polish woman, it was hard to determine whether domestic violence has cultural reasons. These cases in no way differed from those in which the perpetrators were men of European origin. The actual percentage of foreign nationals convicted of rape in relation to the total number of convictions secured in pursuance of the provisions of Article 197 of the Polish Penal Code varies in the respective years of the period under study, ranging from 0.5% (in 2008) to over 2% (in 2012). The number of such convictions with regard to Polish nationals has been steadily decreasing, while remaining fairly stable in the case of foreign nationals (ranging from 4 to 17 per year). In the period spanning 2004–2012, foreign nationals in Poland were convicted of 88 rapes, their perpetrators originating from 29 countries. Over nine years, usually only one or two instances of convictions for rape were related to respective nationalities. Most convictions involved Ukrainians (20%), Bulgarians (17%), and Germans (8%). Romanian citizens were convicted in five cases, while Armenians and Russians 4 times each. A rich source of data on the perpetrators are the court records of criminal cases. In those studied, 18 perpetrators were revealed, all men. It would be rather hard to speculate, though, on any apparent regularity regarding their nationality. In that particular group, the most numerous were the Ukrainians (3). Otherwise, the group comprised single representatives of Russia (Chechen extraction), Tunisia, Morocco, Belarus, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Armenia, and the United States. Six offenders were EU citizens. The reason for a sexual assault was primarily the drive to satisfy one’s sexual desire, which in more than half of the cases was also related to alcohol abuse by the perpetrator. The statistics on the total number of rape offences committed by foreign nationals also differ in terms of the actual location where the rape was perpetrated. The majority (10) of offences described in the records studied took place in apartments and houses (as indeed it usually happens in all cases of reported rape in Poland), but open public spaces (e.g. streets, fields, woodland areas) made up an equally significant category (10 cases). In all cases the aggrieved parties were women, all of them of Polish nationality. They were mostly young or very young women. The youngest victim (of attempted rape) was 11 years old, while the oldest was 32. As with most cases of rape, one rule seemed to prevail throughout, i.e. first and foremost the victims of rape were personally known to the perpetrator. Out of the 20 identified victims, 12 knew the rapist, and 6 of them were members of the perpetrator’s family. In terms of the analysed records, minor victims appeared relatively numerous, also in view of the fact that the two perpetrators raped several girls. In no instance of rape of very young girls was the cultural aspect ever mentioned. In none of those cases was a young girl forced into marriage, or was cultural consent granted to having a sexual intercourse with a minor. Summing up the issue of foreign nationals as the perpetrators of physical abuse and rape, especially in the context of honour based violence, it is clear that currently such acts do not seem to have been committed mainly by the Muslims. Since foreign nationals residing in Poland mostly come from the neighbouring countries (predominantly Ukraine), they are by far the most visible as offenders. As far as the cases of rape are concerned, as referenced in the criminal records under study, the perpetrators’ mode of operation did not differ with respect to their nationality. In the case of foreign offenders, a substantial number of rape victims were very young girls, although this was in no way related to cultures that accept and promote child marriage or forced unions. All the perpetrators originated from our own cultural background.


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