Summer is upon us, which means the UK festival scene is already up and running. For most people, festivals are a time for fun, good music, good weather, and making memories. However, as women, we also need to be making sure that we’re keeping ourselves and those around us safe.
Over the years, there has been an increase in reports of sexual assault and harassment at festivals. A study by YouGov found that one in five festival goers had experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival, and two in five female festival goers have experienced some form of unwanted sexual behaviour at a festival.
These statistics are backed up by a 2018 study conducted by Durham University which found that a third of women had been sexually harassed at a festival, and 8% had been sexually assaulted. These statistics highlight that more needs to be done to protect women at festivals up and down the country.
In 2022 AIF relaunched its Safer Spaces at Festivals charter which was originally launched in 2017 to tackle sexual harassment, violence and assault at UK festivals. More than 100 festivals across the UK signed up to the campaign, which aims to help and support audiences, artists, staff and volunteers. The campaign also aims to take a survivor-led approach and spread key messages about consent.
Festivals such as Reading and Leeds, Parklife and Latitude have committed to the initiative of providing a safe environment for audiences, workforces and performers. Policies, procedures and training should be put in place, and guidance will be given from charities, including Rape Crisis England And Wales, Good Night Out and Safe Gigs For Women. Participating festivals should also have relevant health guidance and connections to local services.
With festivals back in full swing, here are some ways in which you can help keep yourself and those around you safe this summer:
Temperatures during festival season can soar (if we’re lucky), so keeping yourself hydrated is one of the most important tips. Most festivals have free water stations available where you can refill your bottles, so take advantage of these.
Keep a phone charger on you
Festivals are busy and full of crowds, and getting split up from your friends is easy.. Invest in a portable charger so that you never find yourself with a dead battery and can always get in contact with friends if you do get separated.
Have a meeting point
Setting up a spot where you and your friends agree to meet if anything goes wrong can be a lifesaver when you’re struggling to find each other. If you are camping, try and set up your tent near a lamppost or something that you can easily find at night and have a set spot to meet up with each other in case you get separated.
Have a buddy system
Festivals can get really crowded really quickly. Make sure you don’t go off alone and try to stay in groups. Keep tabs on each other and update your friends on your location so that you know everyone is safe and not lost on their own. You could set up find my friends on your phone to easily find each others location.
Watch your drink
Everyone wants to have a good time at a festival, and drinking is very common. If you’re going to be drinking, alternate between your alcoholic drink and water to stay hydrated. Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know and always keep your drink with you to reduce the risk of getting spiked.
Drugs can greatly affect your judgement and your ability to react. However, if you do decide to take recreational drugs, don’t mix substances and don’t buy off people you don’t know. Most festivals now offer drug testing areas where chemists can test substances’ content to ensure they aren’t laced with harmful nasties. The professionals then discuss the results and provided harm-reduction advice.
Seek medical help
Don’t be afraid to visit the medical tents if you think you or a friend need help. Festival staff are not there to judge you and can get you any help or medication that may be needed. The medical team are not there to get you in trouble, they deal with medical situations in private and their main priority is keeping you safe.
Keep your valuables on you
Keep your mobile phone, bank card, ID and cash on you at all times and don’t leave anything valuable in your tent. Theft is a common problem at festivals, so it’s important not to take any valuable objects with you other than what is necessary. If you do find something has been stolen, then go and speak to the crime staff on site and then can advise you of the best course of action. Keeping a bumbag on you with all your valuables in is a great way to keep things safe at all times.
If you are heading out to a festival this summer, then, of course, the main aim is to have fun! The last thing you want to be doing is worrying about something going wrong and missing out on a great experience making memories with friends. Whether it’s your first time at a festival or your 50th time at a festival, it is important to keep up to date on any new safety measures that have been put in place to protect your well-being. Enjoy yourself, and know there is always somewhere to go for help if you need it!
What to do if you are a victim or witness of sexual assault or harassment this summer:
- As a witness, try to engage with the victim as much as possible, be aware they may be feeling unempowered and/or humiliated. Ask the victim what they would like to happen next. Try to avoid putting yourself in any immediate danger and get help as soon as possible.
- If you are a victim yourself, find help immediately, and speak to event staff who can point you in the right direction. You may be in shock, so keep yourself warm and hydrated. Most importantly, don’t blame yourself, none of this is your fault.
24/7 rape and sexual abuse support line – 0808 500 2222
A free phone and online chat service open for anyone aged 16+ in England and Wales.