Why do festivals have a rape problem?

I read this article over at Vice entitled There’s a Rape Problem at Music Festivals and Nobody Seems to Care during the week and to say that’s it’s shocking and depressing is one of life’s wee understatements. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been at a Reading Festival where an incident took place but I’d no idea that there was such a problem, but this is what I said about Reading in 2002.

The site was rammed even though it’d split into two with another leg in Leeds with Guns And Roses playing exclusively in Leeds, so it actually had a stronger lineup than the parent leg of the festival but Reading was utterly rammed with a crowd much, much younger than even the previous year and much rowdier, and even though there’d been a rape in 2001 not far from where I camped, the feeling of insecurity in some parts of the site on that wander in 2002 was scary

I only go to Glastonbury these days but other smaller festivals do attract me, but the bigger festivals are stacking people on top of people, and with festivals attracting more of the sort of person you’d see in your average city centre shithole there’s a problem in that in some cases festivals aren’t somewhere to go to chill out, meet mates and listen to music, but places to go to get as wasted as possible while throwing out inhibitions as much as possible.

Now if even an old hand like myself was getting scared about the feral nature of parts of the Reading Festival site in 2002 I fear for how a 16 or 17 year old girl feels when attending a festival. The statistics in the Vice article though speak for themselves.

While sex crime is much rarer at festivals than theft or drug related offenses, the Secret Garden Party attack is not an outlier. It follows a string of cases at all kinds of festivals in the UK, from metal weekenders to house raves and arty folk-rock breaks. There were three sexual offenses reported at Glastonbury this year and two in 2014. Two men were arrested for raping a woman at Reading Festival last year, and there was also a rape at the festival in 2009. A male nurse was recently convicted for assaulting two unconscious women in the medical tent at Wilderness in Oxfordshire in 2013. A 16-year-old boy was convicted after attacking a 12-year-old girl at Secret Garden Party in 2010. In the same year, two women told police they were raped at Latitude in Suffolk. One of the victims was grabbed by a group of more than three men while walking from her campsite to the toilet.

As said in the article this is probably the tip of a massive iceberg as many incidents of rape aren’t reported, or are dismissed as ‘one-offs’ by festivals, but when the likes of Reading Festival has a history of incidents of rapes going back to the early 2000’s (at American festivals there’s reports going to back to at least Woodstock in 1999) at least, then this is a long term problem that now has to be stopped.

But the first thing that has to happen is that music festival organisers have to admit there’s a problem. While so many are run purely as a business as ‘entrepreneurs’ exploit another boom in festivals that’s going to be a problem, so festivals have push harder to ensure that they’re safe spaces for people of all sexes or ages.  At the minute many seem to just take people’s money and are happy to watch inexperienced teenagers run riot without realising that they’ve a duty of care to all the people coming to the festival but until organisers take more of an effort to admit there’s a problem and actively target rape as a problem then I’m afraid nothing is going to stop people crammed into a small space from thinking they can get away with a terrible crime.

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