The Growing Problem of Sexual Assault at Music Festivals
    • WEDNESDAY, JULY 06, 2016

    • Posted by: Susmita Paruchuri

    Two Swedish music festivals, Bravalla and Putte I Parken, were hit with over 40 cases of sexual assault and rape over the weekend. According to local police, "The description of perpetrators are diverse, with the one common denominator being that these are all young men."

    Five rape and 12 sexual assault charges happened at Bravalla in Norrkoping, which featured headliners like Mumford and Sons, Bastille, The 1795, Wiz Khalifa, and Band of Horses. Putte I Parken was a smaller, free festival in Karlstad, featuring The Quireboys, Dolores Haze and Bob Hund. The charges have been made against seven men who have been accused of raping women and girls aged 12 to 20.

    Some of the accusations include men approaching victims from behind and forcefully grinding against them, or groping them through their clothes. The blatant violation becomes even more abhorrent when you consider that some of these victims were not only women, they were children .

    With concertgoers getting younger and younger--the understanding of what consent is often rudimentary, as a result, young women are not only positioned to be physically vulnerable, but mentally vulnerable to dangerous, predatory situations and sexual assault. While Sweden is in the spotlight right now, this has been a growing problem at music festivals all over the world. The amount of rapes that go unreported at festivals as a result of alcohol and drug use affecting the memories of victims is staggering. Though it's perceived as a safe place to enjoy art, music and a sense of community, it's becoming clear that the very nature of a festival is inadvertently lending itself to carrying out acts of violent, sexual assault against women. Dr. Fiona Grey, the Helplines Organization Coordinator at Charity Rape Crisis, explains that:

    Sometimes women are concerned if they have been taking recreational drugs or alcohol that they will be judged for this. Sometimes it is hard, if you cannot remember exactly what happened, for women to feel they'll be taken seriously when they report.

    Several of the musicians performing at these festivals spoke out against the attacks, most notably Mumford and Sons, who put out a Facebook post expressing their disgust at what happened, and refusing to play any more shows at Bravalla until they had assurance from police that they were doing something about it. "Festivals are a celebration of music and people, a place to let go and feel safe doing so. We're gutted by these hideous reports."

    Zara Larsson, another singer who performed at Bravalla, also took to social media to express her disdain at the events. Writing in Swedish she tweeted:

    "Damn you people who shamelessly rape a girl in public. Damn you guys who make a girl feel unsafe when they go to a festival. I hate guys. Hate hate hate."

    There have been several reports from victims saying that the assailants were made by immigrants, or dark-skinned men, an accusation that hs resulted caused tension in Sweden--blame put on immigrants for the surge in the frequency of rape and sexual assault in the country. One anonymous 15-year-old girl told Expressen Newspaper that she and her friends had been assaulted by foreign youths, and another 17-year-old said she hadn't seen who groped her, but stressed that the group of boys behind her were not of Swedish background.

    Everything about this situation is appalling and the fact that young girls and women were are still unable to feel safe in an environment that is otherweise considered to be a carefree place for communities to gather around music, is downright tragic. The fact is, no person, no matter race or gender, should ever lay a hand on another non-consenting person, and therein lies the problem; it's not that the importance and meaning of consent is still unclear, the problem is that sexual predators, prefer to treat this violative epidemic by not giving shit about it to begin with. That's the black and white of it--cases like this happen in every country, regardless of ethnicity, violence against women is a worldwide problem.

    Police had actually handed out anti-groping campaign bracelets in June at the start of Sweden's festival season--but obviously that didn't accomplish much. Maybe music festivals should take an approach that's less about awareness and more about action.

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