Are efforts to prevent assaults at music festivals working?

July 31, 2017

Sexual assault has been an issue at music festivals since, well… since music festivals have existed. And it hasn’t necessarily gotten better as a bigger spotlight is shed on the problem. Swedish festival Bråvalla recently cancelled its 2018 event after some frightening numbers came up during and after this year’s festival: reports of four rapes and 23 sexual assaults. On the suggestion of a comedian and radio presenter, the same festival is looking into making an entirely man-free festival for next year. Thankfully, there has been a major push in the past few years to work on getting the issue under control. But some are skeptical that festivals are really doing all they can.

CBC recently published a piece that looked into first-person accounts of sexual assaults at festivals in Canada, which included multiple stories about women being drugged. When Osheaga attendee Melanie Doucet felt a date-rape drug beginning to affect her at the festival last year, she reported it immediately to security crews, but said she was brushed off by them, and felt they could’ve handled the situation better. For this year’s festival coming up next weekend, new measures are in place to prevent sexual assaults from happening at Osheaga: female “hirondelles” (‘swallows,’ in English) will be patrolling the grounds offering assistance and scoping out any issues. The Montreal International Jazz Festival recently did something similar, balancing out a typically male-heavy security staff.

The CBC also spoke with Jodie Ortega, an advocate for survivors of sexual violence who mentioned that this sort of awareness and these initiatives should expand to not only include music festivals, but other events as well. She mentioned that perhaps promoters should look to the signs on public transit that express a zero tolerance policy for abuse. Hopefully more festivals follow suit in the future, putting more measures in place to make each event a safe one.

In Other News:

Festival Lineups:  Brantford, ON’s WKND, Halifax Pop Explosion

About the Author

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a writer and photographer. Born and raised on the Prairies in Winnipeg, he’s slowly made his way farther and farther east, spending a few years covering music in Toronto before running clear out of country and ending up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In between, he’s made numerous detours, interviewing and photographing countless artists across North America and beyond. He heads up Amplify’s Instrumental series, where he talks with musicians about the relationships they’ve formed with their most important tools.

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