Outdoor World

Are music festivals doing enough to tackle sexual assault?

Reports of rape and other attempts are on the rise but, from grassroots groups to industry endeavors , measures are being undertaken to keep attendees safe

Festival season is a time of joy, sunburn and sloshing about in muddy realms. However, this booming industry which attracts millions of attendees each year and contributed to the 4bn revenues generated by the UKs live music industry in 2016 has a dark side. From family-oriented Latitude to the largely tweenage V festival, few British celebrations seem to be immune from allegations of rape and sex crime. Between 2014 and 2016, eight sex crime were reported at Reading festival, a post-GCSE venue for many teens. In 2013, a male nurse was convicted of attacking two women in the medical tent at Wilderness. Just last week, police announced that inquiries continue regarding a sexual assault on a bridge close to Glastonburys Silver Hayes dance field, and an alleged assault by a security guard at London one-dayer Lovebox has furthermore been well publicised.

While many attempts happen out of the behavior of the main realm of such events, others occur in the thick of the celebration; in 2011, a 15 -year-old alleged that she had been raped close to the main stage of Bestival on the Isle of Wight. I was also at the celebration that year, and while thankfully I had a safe journey, I was flashed as I exited a toilet, again close to the main stage. Along with more serious cases, the incident compounded my fear that maybe celebrations werent the safe, escapist realms I had hoped they were.

It is not an issue exclusive to Britain, either; earlier this month, news outlets around the world reported on a spate of sexual violence at Swedens largest celebration, Brvalla, which has been cancelled for next year after allegations of four rapes and 23 related assaults. In answer, the comedian Emma Knyckare announced her purpose to comprised a man-free rock celebration. Answering her critics, who claimed that this amounted to anti-male discrimination, Knyckare told the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet that since it seems to be OK to discriminate against females all the time, perhaps its OK to shut out humen for three days?

But is banning boys from celebrations actually the way to deal with things? This is a question I put to Fiona Stewart, the managing director and owner of the Brecon Beacons-based Green Man celebration. As the two countries simply female festival-owner, Stewart has had to find her place within a male-dominated industry over the years, first heading up the Big Chill. Womens safety is a subject she seems strongly about. Im not really into any kind of exclusive situation anywhere, Stewart says of Knyckares plan, before adding that she does is how that specific case may have necessitated a more hardline approach. I would be sympathetic to the people whove made that[ rule ], because they must feeling under tremendous pressure.

Fiona
Fiona Stewart, the owner of Green Man festival. Photograph: Sarah Brimley

As for security at her own festival, Stewart oversees the whole functioning, carefully picking who will work on the ground from a number of different organisations. Green Man has get quite a gentle reputation, but with anything like this its actually fairly robust and vigorous. We have a very proactive posture towards assault, she says. Its not a reactive thing. She ascertains me that if I were to find myself alone at the festival at 2am, there would be lighting, security points and stewards within easy reaching. Whether as a result of her measurements or happy coincidence, reported assaults at Green Man are practically nil.

If Stewart represents an industry panorama, then Girls Against is very much the voice of grassroots endeavors. The group which campaigns on and offline for increased celebration and gig security comprises teenage daughters from across the UK, such as Bea Bennister, who has just finished her -Alevels. She tells me the groups most important endeavour since forming in 2015 was being a part of the Safer Space Campaign, run by the Association for Independent Festivals( AIF) and launched this May. As part of the initiative, Girls Against helped them to provoke a 24 -hour blackout on festivals websites and social media to increase awareness of sexual assault, as well as implementing a new safety charter( its tenets: Zero Tolerance to Sex crime. Hands Off Unless Consent. Dont Be a Bystander ). Among the signatories were Bestival, Secret Garden Party, Boomtown Fair and End of the Road.

While it was a project that caught the medias attention, Bennister is focused not just on prevention but also on what to do once someone has been the victim of an attack, adding that she receives it increasingly important that we continue to work as a support system to help victims and guidebook them in their next steps after an assault.

Glastonbury festival offered only a brief response to my questions on its strategies for preventing any assaults, directing me to a webpage where the advice was limited to keep with friends and avoid dark regions. But the festival outlined praise this year for helping person find their feet again after an attack. In a blogpost that racked up thousands of shares on Twitter, entitled An open letter addressed to Glastonbury, from a victim, Laura Whitehurst detailed how organizers of the celebration had helped her to attend this years publication, after she was sexually assaulted by people she had planned to go with. As well as constructing special arrangements for her traveling and camping, she was also given a letter that allowed her access to extra help from security if required. Terminating her letter of thanks, she said that the organisers had constructed me feel like a survivor again.

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More security teach could be one of the solutions. Photo: Ian Gavan/ Getty Images

Although examples such as this and the AIF campaign are moves in the right direction, there is still more to be done. There is indeed room for improvement, says Bennister. It is clear that proper security develop needs to be the big pushing, but it is increasingly difficult to contact these companies, let alone get them is acceptable to more training. I believe festival organisers are unsure what to suggest, so stay with friends and move if “youre feeling” uncomfortable are common solutions that may not be helpful in all situations.

As for Stewart, she stresses that everyone has their part to play in building sure festivals are safe environments, founded on a culture of respect. I dont see this as a male or female issue issue, I see this as a human issue.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ lifeandstyle/ 2017/ jul/ 25/ music-festivals-sexual-assault-rape-safe

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