Sexual violence: 100 festivals commit to tackling the issue

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More than 100 UK festivals – including Parklife and Boardmasters – have committed to tackling sexual violence.

The festivals have pledged to take a survivor-led approach and that all allegations will be taken seriously.

Dr Hannah Bows from Durham University said research has shown sexual violence is a “common experience for festival attendees – especially for women” and is “often minimised or ignored”.

The criminal law professor said the move was an “important first step”.

Nearly half of female festival goers under 40 said they have faced unwanted sexual behaviour at a music festival, a YouGov survey from 2018 suggested.

Associate professor for criminal law, Dr Bows, said despite stories of rape and sexual assault “hitting the headlines most summers there has been little attention paid to the issue by festivals”.

She said it was critical for all festivals to “recognise their responsibility” and “create a cultural change” to tackle broader issues of misogyny and sexism.

Charities including Rape Crisis England and Wales, Good Night Out and Safe Gigs For Women have provided input and guidance for the initiative, which was originally launched in 2017.

The charter of best practice that 103 festivals in the UK have signed up to, states that all allegations of sexual assault, violence and harassment will be taken seriously, acted on promptly and investigated.

The festivals, also including Reading and Leeds, El Dorado and Latitude, will strive to deliver a safe environment for audiences, performers and workers.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, numerous festivals in the UK were cancelled or postponed in 2020 and 2021.

Kelly Bennaton from Rape Crisis England and Wales said: “Festival goers deserve to know that if they report sexual assault they will be listened to and believed.”

They deserve to know that event workers are “equipped” to handle reports and that festivals are taking a “proactive approach in preventing sexual assault”, she said.

More widely than festivals, police in England and Wales recorded 63,136 rape offences in the year to September 2021 – the highest recorded annual figure to date.

These led to just 1,557 prosecutions, compared with 2,102 in the previous 12 months.

The Association of Independent Festivals’ (AIF) Safer Spaces At Festivals campaign also commits participating festivals to providing health guidance and connections to local services – as well as promoting the principle of consent.

“Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society”, said Phoebe Rodwell from AIF.

She said “understanding and approaches” to tackling theses issues evolve “all the time” so it was important to renew the campaign to help festival organisers “fulfil their duty of care at events”.

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