Festivals should do extra to handle sexual violence


Music festivals are vital cultural and financial occasions. They’ve grow to be symbols of the British summertime.

Nevertheless, pageant areas should not equal areas. Competition lineups stay dominated by males, and feminine festivalgoers are additionally not free to take pleasure in festivals in the identical means as males. In 2018 a ballot carried out by YouGov discovered that over 40% of ladies beneath 40 reported being sexually harassed or assaulted.

Along with colleagues, I started a analysis venture in 2018 to discover sexual violence at UK festivals. The primary a part of our examine – a survey of 450 festivalgoers – strengthened the findings of the YouGov ballot.

We discovered that 34% of feminine respondents reported being sexually harassed or assaulted at a pageant in the previous couple of years, in contrast with 6% of males. In our examine, 9% of ladies and 1% of males reported being sexually assaulted.

We needed to discover these experiences and their influence in additional element. We interviewed 13 feminine festivalgoers aged between 18 and 40 who had been sexually harassed or assaulted at a pageant within the earlier two years. This included being catcalled and leered at, having a hand put up their costume or skirt, and being rubbed in opposition to or groped. It additionally included penetrative assault.


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A number of the individuals, to some extent, anticipated this behaviour. It had grow to be normalised – half and parcel of being a girl at a pageant.

This chimes with broader analysis. A UK survey discovered that 86% of 18- to 24-year-old ladies, and 71% of all ladies, had been harassed in a public area. Greater than half of 18- to 24-year-olds will expertise harassment or assault in a bar, membership or different nightlife venue. As one participant stated to us, sexual harassment and aggression are one thing “we’re type of taught to anticipate”.

The pageant atmosphere

Festivals should not the one areas ladies expertise sexual harassment or violence. However there are distinctive facets of festivals that sadly make them excellent areas for perpetrating these acts, whereas concurrently making it tough for girls to report or search assist.

Crowded stage areas can present a cloak of anonymity for perpetrators who harass, grope or assault. Perpetrators can disappear into crowds shortly and are tough to find by safety or different workers. One girl in our analysis described this behaviour as like “drive by” misogyny.

Equally, the walkways between pageant and tenting areas, in addition to the tenting websites themselves, had been highlighted by ladies in our examine as areas the place they’d been harassed or adopted. One girl described having a person “break into” her tent and assault her. These areas not often have safety on website and could also be positioned away from safety huts, making it tough to report shortly.

Culturally, festivals will be areas that see excessive ranges of alcohol and drug intoxication. They’re additionally locations the place massive teams of males attend collectively. These facets diminished how protected ladies (and to a lesser extent, males) felt at festivals in our earlier survey.

The ladies we interviewed felt these elements created a cultural environment the place sexual violence was normalised and generally trivialised by mates, different festivalgoers, perpetrators and, in some circumstances, pageant workers, together with safety.

Ladies described being shocked and upset and instructed us that the expertise usually ruined the pageant for them. Some had stopped going to festivals. Others modified their behaviour to scale back the chance of sexual violence in different methods. In different phrases, ladies engaged in what is called “security work” – resembling decreasing their alcohol consumption, avoiding sure locations and never going to locations alone.

Altering the area

One of many uncommon options of festivals in contrast with different nightlife and reside music settings is that the venue just isn’t mounted – it’s changeable and adaptable. Because of this there are alternatives to revamp and reimagine the spatial format of festivals with stopping sexual violence in thoughts. This will embody putting safety or security ambassadors in particular areas nearer to the areas ladies are reporting harassment or assault, together with in crowded stage areas, however a wider dialog about easy methods to modify pageant areas is required.

There have been constructive developments over the previous few years. The Affiliation of Unbiased Festivals, which represents over 100 unbiased festivals, has developed a constitution and marketing campaign to lift consciousness of sexual violence. The Affiliation encourages festivals to take the difficulty severely, with an method which means all disclosures are believed and brought severely of their prevention and response initiatives.

Partnering with sexual violence specialist companies resembling Rape Disaster and grassroots marketing campaign organisations like Secure Gigs For Ladies and Good Night time Out can be a welcome step – one which some festivals have taken. For instance, Boomtown had Safer Areas at their pageant this 12 months.

However extra must be accomplished. It requires dedication from all festivals in any respect ranges, working along with specialist businesses and ladies who’ve skilled sexual violence, to create a coordinated technique to enhance ladies’s security at festivals, alongside higher knowledge assortment and sharing to make sure swift responses to points on website and wider prevention by way of security planning. Extra broadly, festivals want to handle lineups and different areas of gender inequality to set a wider cultural change in movement.



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