The topics of sexual assault and rape within the music festival community have unfortunately become buried beneath other ongoing headlines regarding drug overdoses, deaths, twitter beef and the like. The issue is one that undoubtedly requires attention, prevention efforts, and conviction of the offenders; however, to frame it as some sort of an “epidemic” and use scaremongering in an attempt to paint the entire music scene as a cesspool of sexual abuse may be taking it a step too far.
VICE recently published an editorial titled “There’s a Rape Problem at Music Festivals and No One Seems To Care,” which includes equal parts real-life instances of assault, and unorganized blame directed at festival organizers, regular attendees, and men in general. While the issue exists, and is worth discussion and action, VICE overstated the trend while providing too narrow a window of evidence to back up their large claims.
The article details the number of rapes that occurred solely at UK festivals Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Reading Festival, and Latitude over the last five years. It describes a small handful of cases, both on the grounds and in the medical facilities themselves, that are meant to define the circuit as a dangerous minefield of assault. Then, it cites a single statistic from a 73-page UK study from 2013, saying that “85 percent of all serious sexual offenses aren’t reported to the police.” While this may be the case in the whole of the United Kingdom, the number is far too generalized and distant from the situation at hand to hold much value. Judging from the small number of instances taken over the last five years, it isn’t entirely unreasonable to assert that such events are relatively safe, if we’re looking at statistics.
VICE points to the “Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat” t-shirt wearer from Coachella as an indicator of the scene’s supposed nonchalant rape culture. The argument then shifts toward the social aspect, using one man’s ignorant and inappropriate clothing choice to define the general festival mentality about sexual assault. Any evidence, citations or proof stops here, as the primacy source becomes simply “female festival goers [they’ve] spoken to”.
The remainder of the editorial speaks about the importance of understanding the meaning of consent and casts blame toward the vagueness of festival safety tips. What was once an attempted analysis of the “rape epidemic” in the music scene transforms into something else. The author devolves her professional tone, and ends the piece with a quote that places the entire responsibility of preventing rape on men, straying very far away from the initial intent of the article. The tagline underneath the title asks why festival organizers aren’t doing more to protect women and the discussion leading up to the end deals with just this, despite its relative ineffectiveness. To end the piece with a quote condemning men is to remove most credibility and professionalism from what should have been a heavily researched and informative piece about the underbelly of music festivals.
Tell guys to not be dickheads, basically.
The issue of rape and sexual abuse is an extremely important one. These days, very few large scale events such as music festivals run their course without an unfortunate or dangerous situation occurring. Fixing the problem, of course, takes consistent cooperation between the organizers and attendees to educate themselves and those around them, and a support system strong enough to allow victims to come forward. While we would never seek to downplay or shun these sorts of conversations from happening, using thin fear-mongering is never the way to bring about change. VICE should have stuck to the facts and statistics, rather than ultimately use several, vague examples as an indication of the depravity of today’s male festival goers.
If you feel that you have been the victim of a sexual assault, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit RAINN onine.