Over 100 UK festivals commit to tackling sexual violence

Boomtown Fair, Boardmasters, Reading & Leeds, Bluedot, Parklife  and Shambala among signatories of AIF’s Safer Spaces

103 UK festivals have committed to The Association of Independent Festivals’ (AIF) Safer Spaces At Festivals campaign, which is aimed at tackling sexual violence at festivals and has been relaunched today to address the issue in 2022 and beyond. 

Originally launched in May 2017, the initiative today sees festivals commit to an updated charter of best practice developed with input and guidance from experts at Rape Crisis England And Wales, Good Night Out, Safe Gigs For Women, Girls Against and UN Women.  

Festival organisers are reiterating their commitment to delivering a safe environment for audiences, performers, and workforce, and to taking a survivor-led approach underpinned by policies, procedures, and training. 

The Charter states that all allegations of sexual harassment, assault and violence will be taken seriously, acted upon promptly and investigated. This is supplemented by a commitment to clear, robust reporting and disclosure procedures, including how to report incidents onsite and post event. 

Festival policies will include relevant health guidance and connections to local services, and the campaign will feature advice on how to be an active bystander including the ‘5 D’s’ of Bystander Intervention devised by Right To Be (Direct, Delegate, Distract, Document and Delay).  

In addition, the festivals will actively promote the principle of consent regarding sexual activity onsite at events, defining consent as “someone engaging in sexual activity if they agree by choice, and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice” and reiterating that consent can be revoked at any time. 

Participating festivals will share key messages on social media across a 24-hour period from 9am today (Monday 16th May) and will also display key messages onsite this summer at events.   

There will also be a resource hub linking to all partner organisations, up to date advice, guidance and best practice examples of what festivals are doing on the ground.   

In AIF’s latest audience survey, following the 2019 season, when asked: ‘Did you experience sexual assault or harassment at any festival this year?’ 98.7% answered ‘No’. This was from a total of 2,283 respondents, 68.83% of which identified as female. However, at festivals and in wider society, this is a difficult problem to quantify – according to Rape Crisis, 5 in 6 women who are raped do not report it to Police (the same is true for 4 in 5 men), underlining the need for a proactive approach from festival organisers. 

AIF Membership & Operations Coordinator Phoebe Rodwell said: “The original Safer Spaces campaign has had a positive impact across festivals for music fans and festival staff alike. Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society. Our understanding and approaches to tackling the issue are evolving all the time. That’s why it’s important that we renew the Safer Spaces campaign in 2022 with up-to-date messaging, resources and practices, to prevent sexual violence and promote a survivor-led approach, helping festival organisers to fulfil their duty of care at events.”

Media & Communications Officer at Rape Crisis England and Wales Kelly Bennaton said:  “We’re encouraged to see the commitment and consideration from festival organisers in making their events safe places for women and girls. The AIF Safer Spaces Charter acknowledges the importance of dedicated training, awareness raising, and the provision of specialist support services for survivors. Festival goers deserve to know that if they report sexual assault they will be listened to and believed, and that those working on site are equipped to handle all reports with knowledge and empathy. They also deserve to know that festivals are taking a proactive approach in preventing sexual assault, and that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. We’re pleased to have worked with AIF on developing this charter, and hope that the wider festival industry will follow its lead.”

 

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