Image Courtesy: ibtimes.co.ukRape Culture And Music Festivals: Are We Really Safe? Anupama Khedkar July 28, 2015 FS News After news of a rape reported at Secret Garden Party, we decided to take a look back at other such cases at music festivals and what this means for festival attendees. Read the full story below. A statement was recently released on the Secret Garden Party website saying, “A woman has alleged that she was raped in the early hours of Friday, July 24th in one of the tented areas of the Secret Garden Party site. “Police have appealed for any witnesses who might have seen or heard anything suspicious in the early hours of Friday morning to contact a police officer on-site, visit the welfare tent, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. “The Secret Garden Party team are working closely with the police to assist them with their investigation.” Secret Garden Party is an indie arts & music festival held annually in England. There is not much information about who this female festival attendee is or the specifications of the incident. The statement released by SGP and the news that police are looking for witnesses are all we have, as of now. Other such cases include the 16-year-old girl raped in her tent at Reading Music Festival, England in 2001, another 19-year-old girl was raped after losing sight of her tent at the festival venue at Latitude Music Festival, England in 2010, and a 24-year-old British man who was cornered at the festival and raped at Oktoberfest, Munich in 2014. This article by Fox News published in 2014 states that getting your purse snatched isn’t the worst thing that can happen to female attendees at concerts and music festivals. Rape at these events is on the rise, and the contributing factors to this are alcohol, drugs and lax security. (Image Courtesy: digitalphotogallery.com) This obviously raises the question of whether there is something in the nature of music festivals themselves that fosters the culture of sexual assault. And if looked at closely enough, we believe that music festivals do not harbor or encourage any attributes that may provoke such behavior that any other crowded venues don’t. In this post, sociologist, sexuality and gender expert Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals says, “The idea that people get into crowds and behave in ways that they wouldn’t necessarily behave when they’re alone is an interesting one that people think about. I have an uneasy relationship with those explanations. I feel like it is taking the onus of responsibility away from the social actor. For example, there was a Keith Urban concert, where there were something like 20 or 30 people watching a young woman get assaulted. And they were like, “Oh, you know, we were in a crowd.” That sort of view is very troubling, but at the same time people use that crowd behavior argument to explain lots of other behaviors. So, it’s an interesting one to think about.” It would be easier to point fingers and label these wicked happenings to the increase of rape culture at music festivals because of its “drink, drugs and hook-up” culture that’s been in the news recently. But what’s harder is analyzing the situation objectively and know that things like these happen, unprovoked. And they happen to both female and male attendees, as proved in the Oktoberfest case. What’s especially disturbing is the sense of power being in a crowd gives someone, as pointed out by Dr. Tibbals above. One of the best examples of this is the tragedy and mayhem that was Woodstock ’99, where several sexual assaults were reported. It’s not music festival culture that’s polluted, but the anonymity that comes with being in the crowd. (Image Courtesy: kaurista.com) This is not about rape culture or sexism anymore, this is about security, if anything. Incidents happen everywhere, and to prevent them from happening, we need more security, more vigilance, not a public event to lay the blame on. Sexual assault can’t be separated from public events if it’s prevalent otherwise, be it a concert, a music festival or a bloody baseball match. Albeit, lack of security and intoxication that reduces vigilance can be factors that need to be improved or looked upon. Also, as a festival attending female, I find it ridiculously suffocating that articles like this one, which tells us (in this case, women) how to be safe during your first time at a music festival even exist, except of course, they must. Therefore, we at Festival Sherpa implore you to take precautions wherever you go, be it a festival or the grocery store.