1 in 5 people are sexually assaulted or harassed at music festivals in England, according to a new survey conducted by the UK Press Association and YouGov.
“Shocking” Levels Of Harassment, Assault At UK Festivals
Britain has a long and storied history of festivals. From Glastonbury and Bestival to the Isle of Wight and Download, around 30 million people attend festivals in the UK every year. That’s just 2 million fewer than the number who attend festivals in the US, which is quite astonishing given that the United Kingdom has about one-fifth the American population.
The British love their festivals, but recent research shows that festival grounds across the Commonwealth can be anything but safe, especially for young women. In a survey of 1,188 people who went to festivals, YouGov found that 22% of the respondents had experienced sexual harassment or suffered an assault during their experience at the gathering.
That proportion rose to 30% for women and soared even higher, to 43%, for women under the age of 40. Thankfully, most of the responders were not assaulted, but their experiences do sound troubling. Most common, the survey reveals, were “forceful dancing and sexual verbal harassment,” according to NME.
Few Assaults Reported, Especially Among Women
Reporting rates cut in very different directions for men and for women. While only 1% of the women who suffered mistreatment said they had reported the assault or harassment to festival staff, nearly 20% of men who were victimized did so.
Obviously, both of those numbers are unacceptably low, but the clear distinction between genders is troublesome. Jen Calleja, a director for the Good Night Out Campaign, a non-profit working to end sexual harassment at music venues and bars, calls the recent survey’s results “shocking but not surprising.” She continued,
“we know that the vast amount of harassment and sexual assault is not reported and we know this comes down to stigma, fear or not being believed and a minimization of what harassment is.”
Another clear contrast comes out when we look at the numbers on sexual assault. Around 11% of the women who were polled said they had been assaulted while conscious; only 3% of men reported being assaulted under similar circumstances. About 4% of women, compared to 2% of men, reported having been assaulted while unconscious or sleeping.
7 In 10 Assaults Committed By Strangers
And, in a strong indication that festivals constitute a highly-irregular environment, approximately 70% of the sexual assault survivors said they did not know their abuser.
Outside of the festival world, it’s the exact opposite. According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, around 7 in 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
No Similar Statistics In US
Statistics like this just don’t exist in the United States. In fact, statistics like this had never existed in the UK either, until YouGov decided to ask the question. Tracey Wise, founder of Safe Gigs For Women, is glad the data is finally being collected. In an interview with the BBC, Wise said, “it gives us something to show to festival organizers so we can say ‘you need to take this on board.’ “
In an interesting admission that festival organizers could be sued over sexual assaults in the future, Paul Reed, chief executive at the Association of Independent Festivals, says organizers “have a duty to make their events as safe and secure and enjoyable” as possible.
Festivals Silent On Sexual Assault Responsibility
What do festivals think about that? Most of them aren’t talking. After analyzing their data, the Press Association reached out to the UK’s 21 biggest festivals for comment, but only 5 of them responded. The Green Man Festival, held every year in Wales, says it stations trained “stewards […] throughout the festival […] to report any harassment, or violence, to security to be investigated.” The festival’s crew and service staff are also trained to report harassment and violence, a spokesperson reports.