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UK festivals commit to tackling sexual violence at events

Over 100 festivals in the UK have committed to tackling sexual violence at events, including Reading and Leeds, Boomtown Fair, Boardmasters and Parklife.

Some 105 festivals have committed to The Association of Independent Festivals’ (AIF) Safer Spaces At Festivals campaign, with the aim of tackling sexual violence.

The initiative had originally launched in May 2017 but has now been re-launched with festivals committing to an updated charter of best practices. These practices have been developed with guidances from organisations such as Rape Crisis England and Wales, Good Night Out, Safe Gigs for Women, Girls Against and UN Women.

By working with the initiative, festival organisers are striving to provide a safe environment for audiences, performers and the workforce. Organisers have also committed to taking a survivor-led approach, supported by policies, procedures and training.

The updated charter makes sure that organisers will take all allegations of sexual harassment, assault and violence seriously, acted upon promptly and investigated. This will be aided with clear reporting and disclosure procedures, including how to report incidents onsite and post-event.

Further policies will include health guidance and connections to local services, as well as advice on how to be an ‘active bystander’ and how to intervene if harassment or violence is taking place. Organisers will also actively promote consent regarding sexual activity.

Partner organisations will have access to a resource hub offering up-to-date advice, guidance and best practice examples.

AIF membership and operations coordinator Phoebe Rodwell (pictured) 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.”

Following AIF’s most recent audience survey after the 2019 festival season, 98.7% of people said that they had not experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival. From the 2,283 respondents, 68.83% identified as female.

However, Rape Crisis has said that five in six women, and four in five men, who are raped do not report it to the police.

Rape Crisis England and Wales media and communications officer Kelly Bennaton added: “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.”