Festival season is well under way. For most attendees, festivals are the highlight of the summer – a celebration of music and culture which takes place in a carefree and communal atmosphere. However, it’s becoming ever more apparent that festival culture has been infiltrated by a disturbing affliction.

Reports of sexual harassment and rape at music festivals are shockingly high. Just last week, authorities received five reports of rape and 12 reports of sexual assault at Bråvalla, one of Sweden’s most popular music festivals. There were also a staggering 27 cases of sexual assault reported at Sweden’s Putte i Parken festival which took place between 30th June and 2nd July. Closer to home, police are currently investigating the rape of a teenager at last weekend’s T in the Park music festival. There were also three reports of sexual assault at Glastonbury 2015.

Girls Against is a UK based campaign, set up to both raise awareness of and eradicate sexual assault at gigs and music festivals. It’s run by five young women: Hannah, Anna, Anni, Ava and Bea. In their own words, GA’s aim is to “support victims who have been affected by [sexual harassment], and encourage reporting to staff, as well as contacting venues and security companies to ensure correct protocol is in place to tackle it”.

“We started up back in October 2015 after Hannah was sexually assaulted at a Peace gig”

Impact: How did Girls Against begin?
Girls Against: We started up back in October 2015 after Hannah was sexually assaulted at a Peace gig. We were so frustrated and angry at the lack of discussion on the topic and decided action had to be taken so to prevent anyone else from suffering, as – despite a lack of conversation about sexual assault at gigs – so many people we know have been affected by it.

I: How well has your message spread since then?
GA: Since October support has been insane. Bands such as The 1975, Wolf Alice, Slaves and Circa Waves have shown support and spread word of the issue. We’ve also been featured on BBC News which was incredible as it meant the topic was being discussed on a much larger scale, meaning victims again could feel empowered and less alone.

“Many venues and security companies such as SecuriGroup have introduced sexual assault training, which for us has been a huge achievement as it shows that we’ve actually had an impact on the venues themselves”

I: What do you think Girls Against have achieved so far?
GA: We’ve achieved a huge amount of awareness on the topic – so many people have come forward and told us they didn’t know others experienced it, and they now feel much less alone as a result.

Many venues and security companies such as SecuriGroup have introduced sexual assault training, which for us has been a huge achievement as it shows that we’ve actually had an impact on the venues themselves. But we still have very far to go, and this isn’t an issue which can be sorted overnight – it will take lots of hard work and perseverance!

I: What do you recommend people do if they encounter harassment?
GA: If someone is sexually assaulted, we first recommend that you look the perpetrator in the eye and take note of their face, both so they know that you are aware of what they have done and so you can then go on to report it to security personnel or venue staff.

We also want to ensure that you’re safe, with friends and if you’re feeling vulnerable or scared to please seek support from staff as they will be more than willing to take care of you if it’s affected you badly. It’s also highly encouraged for you to report it to the police, as it is a serious offence.

I: Who are Girls Against’s most notable supporters?
GA: One of the main reasons we started the campaign was after Harry Koisser from Peace tweeted about Hannah’s assault. If it wasn’t for Peace, the campaign wouldn’t have begun, and we are so, so grateful for their support! We also conduct interviews with many bands – including Wolf Alice, Slaves, Pretty Vicious, Drenge and Jaws – which allows us a direct insight into the musicians’ perspectives.

Some more notable GA supporters include Kate Nash, George Ezra, Spring King, Hinds, Rat Boy, Genghar, Best Coast, Enter Shikari and Kathleen Hanna (which for us is insane as her riot grrl movement is a massive inspiration for us).

I: How do the students reading this get involved with Girls Against?
GA: Spread the word! We regularly sell GA badges online, and would be more than happy to send copies of our posters for students to put up in local venues, student unions or record stores!

“For us, the biggest goal is ensuring correct sexual assault protocol training for staff”

I: What does the future hold for the founders of Girls Against and for the campaign itself?
GA: For us, the biggest goal is ensuring correct sexual assault protocol training for staff. This is a long shot, as many companies simply don’t take us seriously or are impossible to get in contact with, but with the support we’ve received so far, we will push on and do our best to ensure the safety of every single gig-goer who simply wants to enjoy the music!

Maddy Hay

You can follow @girlsagainst on Twitter.

To read more about Girls Against, Riot Grrrls and the progression of women’s role within live music, check out Impact’s next issue, due in September 2016.

Images Courtesy of Girls Against via Facebook

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