Fight against sexual violence in music festivals and events

Safer spaces officially launches today, in response to the epidemic and enduring issues of sexual violence, harassment and abuse at music festivals and events.

Two sisters, Anna MacGregor and Madeleine North, based in Cornwall and London respectively, created Safer Spaces in 2021 as a result of their own personal and professional experiences, and in response to tolerant VAWG (violence against women and girls) and systemic culture of aggression and abuse of women and girls at concerts, festivals and other events.

A community benefit organization run by volunteers, Safer Spaces is already in place at a number of UK and international music festivals this year to provide a comfortable and safe space for women and girls who feel overwhelmed, out of sorts. comfortable or who have been sexually assaulted, abused or harassed.

A report of YouGov revealed that one in five festival-goers had experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival, while two in five young festival-goers had experienced unwanted sexual behavior.

The same report states that more than a third of these young women who have faced unwanted sexual behavior, assault, abuse or harassment, have not spoken to anyone about their experience. These statistics reveal the shocking levels of harassment that plague music festivals. Issues of violence against women and girls also continue to exist outside of music festivals. Recent News said a police watchdog had warned of an “epidemic of violence” against women and girls.

And at the end of 2021, there was additional callsincluding Dame Vera Baird QC (Victims Commissioner for England and Wales), for the police force to do more to address these issues and thankfully those calls are starting to be heard as the VAWG is now a national strategic policing priority.

Safer Spaces was created to educate and create a culture that confronts and prevents sexual violence, harassment and domestic violence at festivals and events; provide all women and girls with access to specialist support, referrals and ongoing localized referral pathways. Specially trained volunteer outreach teams are sent to festivals to offer on-site, face-to-face support, while educating and engaging festival-goers, staff and vendors with zero tolerance and a “don’t be a bystander” message. , to de-stigmatize by talking about and reporting sexual violence.

Safer Spaces tents provide a safe and welcoming space where women and girls can come and relax, use the facilities and escape to some peace. The tents also provide a safe space to report incidents (via private disclosure booths) and get professional support. It is hoped that by providing spaces like this, more young women and girls will feel better equipped to report incidents and willing to receive professional support until they feel ready to return to enjoy the event with their friends. While Safer Spaces is gender sensitive, all services are gender inclusive, not dismissing anyone who needs a safe space.

Anna MacGregor, CEO and Co-Founder of Safer Spaces, said: “Safer Spaces wants to eradicate VAWG and harassment across society by raising awareness, training professionals and community members to challenge behaviors, identify abuse, and respond and support those who have experienced or been affected through aggression, abuse or harassment. As a country, we are creating better services, structures and legislation to respond to VAWG, but that is not enough. VAWG is a systemic and long-standing problem, culturally and socially embedded. We need to engage directly with people, create safe spaces for women and girls, and educate and challenge male violence. Festivals, events and artists are uniquely placed to really emphasize a zero tolerance approach and show women and girls that they are valued and that male violence is condemned.

Safer Spaces piloted at Directors Festival in 2021, where around 60 specially trained volunteers traveled to the 50,000 capacity Cornish event and received an overwhelmingly positive response from festival-goers and emergency services. Safer Spaces also provided services to the Isle of Wight festival and SoundStorm in Saudi Arabia. In 2022, safer spaces will be in place at Boardmasters, NASS Festival, Love Saves The Day, Forwards and BoomTown, with more to be confirmed in the coming months.

Lucy (alias), received support from Safer Spaces. Lucia said,“I’ve always felt nervous at festivals and parties. My friends and I always make sure we have a plan, so we’re never alone, don’t leave our drinks unattended and always check in with each other. others, throughout the day and night – none of our male friends have to!Despite having a safety plan in place, I was sexually assaulted outside the washroom – my friend was in the bathroom next to me I have been attacked and harassed by men before and never told anyone about it but this time I went to Safer Spaces – because I used the glam tent earlier today and I knew they could help me.

The team brought me warm clothes and a hot drink and let me stay with them for as long as I needed and they looked after my companion as well. I decided I didn’t want to report to the police, because I couldn’t quite describe the guy, but the team gave me so much information on how I could report later if I wanted to. . I ended up telling them about my ex, who was really controlling and they found a local service that I can access when I got home. If this happens to me or a friend again, I will tell someone and also try to report it to the police. The team really made us feel powerful and able to speak out against sexual assault and harassment – ​​it’s not okay and we don’t have to put up with it. I felt so safe and my friends and I used the tent and crew for the rest of the festival as a check-in and meeting place in our security plan. Thank you, Safer Spaces!

As a nonprofit, Safer Spaces welcomes applications from brands and other organizations that can support their work in providing safe spaces for young women and girls.

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