This week saw the launch of Safer Spaces, a community interest organisation that aims to provide a safe sopace for women and girls who feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable or who have been sexually assaulted, abused or harassed. Safer Spaces’ tents will offer a welcoming safe space where women and girls can come and hang out, use facilities and escape to some calmness. The tents also provide a safe space to report incidents (via private disclosure cabins) and get professional support. It is hoped that by providing spaces like this, more young women and girls will feel better equipped to report incidents, and open to receiving professional support until they feel ready to return to enjoy the event with their friends. While Safer Spaces is gender informed, all services are gender inclusive, turning no one away that needs a safe space.
Safer Spaces was set up to educate and create a culture that confronts and prevents sexual violence, harassment and domestic abuse at festivals and events; providing all women and girls access to specialist support, reporting and ongoing localised referral pathways. The specially trained volunteer outreach teams are sent to festivals to offer on site, face-to-face support, whilst educating and engaging festival goers, staff and vendors with zero tolerance and ‘don’t be a bystander’ messaging, to de-stigmatise talking about and reporting sexual violence. A great example of how focus at festivals can help to take important messaging into wider society.
Safer Spaces piloted at Boardmasters festival in 2021, where around 60 specially-trained volunteers headed to the 50,000 capacity Cornish event, and received a hugely positive response from festival goers and emergency services. Safer Spaces also took its services to Isle Of Wight festival, and SoundStorm in Saudi Arabia.
In 2017, the Association of Independent Festivals also launched their similarly named Safer Spaces at Festivals initiative to raise greater awareness about sexual violence across everyone from audiences to artists to staff and volunteers – and to spread some key messages around “consent”, about “not being a bystander” and to take a “zero tolerance” approach to all forms of sexual assault. Their resources include guidance for welfare providers already present at many events and links to other services providing support.
In 2018, a YouGov poll, carried out for the Press Association revealed that, over a lifetime of festival attendance rather than a single year, two in five young female festival goers responding to the survey had been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour.