New Research Shines Light On Sexual Violence At Australian Music Festivals

Unfortunately, it also increases the problem of intimate assault that has blighted celebrations in recent years. This presssing issue has attracted increased public agitation and attention, as illustrated through media reporting, activism, and the gradual introduction of festival policies and prevention efforts. Despite this, there has been no research on sexual violence at music festivals virtually.

This is amazing, simply because they bring together a range of factors that are associated with an elevated risk of sexual violence, such as high levels of medication and alcoholic beverages intake. But beyond this scholarly study, there is hardly any documented evidence about sexual violence at music festivals, and none within Australia. To address this gap, my colleagues and I conducted the first study into experiences and perceptions of sexual violence at Australian music festivals.

We centered on forms of intimate violence which range from sexual harassment (such as wolf-whistling and unwanted verbal feedback) through to behaviours that might meet legal thresholds for intimate assault. We conducted an online survey of 500 people who attend Australian music celebrations on their perceptions of basic safety and sexual assault at festivals. We also spoke to 16 people who had either experienced sexual violence, or been involved with giving an answer to an incident, at music festivals in the united states. Most of our participants felt safe most of the time at Australian music festivals, with 61.5 percent stating that they “usually” experienced safe, and 29 percent responding that they “always” feel safe at festivals.

This can be an important finding, as it cautions us to resist looking at celebrations as dangerous or dangerous areas inherently, also to avoid perpetuating the moral stress that accompanies youth leisure methods often. Men more consistently said they felt safe compared to women and LGBT participants. For instance, men were equally as likely to say they either “always” (47 percent) or “usually” (46 percent) felt safe, with 3 percent of men saying they “sometimes” felt safe.

In assessment, 20.4 percent of women said they “always” sensed safe, 68.8 percent “usually” sensed safe, and 8.4 percent reported that they only “sometimes” experienced safe. This finding resonates with prior research on gender, sexuality and protection across a range of contexts. The presence of friends was the most significant factor influencing parcipants’ sense of safety. However, this is a double-edged sword as it pertains to sexual assault, considering that we are most vulnerable to perpetration from someone we know.

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Conversely, other customers’ drug and alcohol intake and overcrowding were the factors participants mostly associated with feeling “unsafe” at a festival. An overwhelming most participants thought that intimate harassment (87.5 percent) and sexual assault (74.1 percent) occurred at music celebrations. Certainly, this perception is consistent with the emerging anecdotal and international evidence. Sexual harassment was perceived to be a common occurrence at festivals. Nearly all participants believed it happened “often” (31.2 percent) or “very often” (30.2 percent). In contrast, participants believed intimate assault was less common, with the majority of participants saying that it happens “sometimes” (33 percent) or “not so often” (26.5 percent).

Participants recognised the gendered nature of these encounters, with women seen as most likely to experience intimate harassment (86.7 percent) and intimate assault (86 percent). Experiences distributed by interview individuals spanned a variety of “types” of intimate violence, from harassing behaviours such as verbal comments, through to functions that could likely meet legal thresholds for intimate assault. Sexual harassment was common particularly, consistent with survey participants’ perspectives. Notably, the majority of our participants acquired multiple experiences of sexual assault, and/or knew friends who got similar experiences. Interview participants’ experiences further illustrated the way the environmental and contextual features of festivals could be utilized to facilitate and excuse perpetration.

Crowded spaces like the mosh pit were most regularly identified as sites of intimate violence. For instance, perpetrators could actually use the packed nature of the areas to make a degree of ambiguity about, or “get away with”, their behavior. In such configurations, it was problematic for participants to know if an occurrence was intentional often, or the regrettable consequence of a packed just, physically aggressive space often.

In less ambiguous situations, perpetrators could vanish into the crowd easily, making it difficult to do anything about the occurrence. Such experiences can and do profoundly impact women’s capability to fully take part in music festivals. Participants said they transformed just how they outfitted often, were less inclined to inhabit crowded areas (such as the mosh), and were hyper-vigilant often.