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One in six young women sexually intimidated at music festivals

19:25 21/06/2018

One in six young women are sexually harassed at a summer music festival in Belgium. The figure is one of many to emerge from a study carried out by Plan International Belgium, together with the research agency Dedicated.

The agencies spoke with more than 600 people between the ages of 16 and 24 who had been to music festivals in Belgium over the last three years. The study concentrated on 25 of the larger festivals – those with more than 20,000 ticketholders – such as Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and Tomorrowland.

“We learned that sexual intimidation is alive and well at festivals,” said Wouter Stes of Plan International Belgium, the local chapter of the global NGO that works to end discrimination against girls. “No less than 60% of the youth said that they saw it as a serious problem.”

About 14% of the young people said they had been the victim of sexual harassment at a festival over the last three years. “Most of them were girls, which made the number for girls one in six,” said Stes.

40% of witnesses just walked away

Participants in the study gave examples that ranged from sexist remarks to unwanted touching in the tightly packed crowds to outright sexual assault. Most of the respondents said that they weren’t sure how to handle such a situation if they saw it.

“Most of them said that when they witnessed it, they did something to intervene,” said Stes. “But a full 40% said they just walked away. They either didn’t know what to do or were afraid of becoming a victim themselves.”

In terms of addressing the situation, Stes said that most of the responsibility lies with festival organisers. All festivals should “have an emergency number that’s visible at all times so that every festival-goers knows how to contact security”.

Plan International Belgium is heading to a number of festivals this summer with the campaign #Safestival. “We are going to train young people in how to deal with these situations when they see them – how they can intervene without bringing themselves into danger.”

Photo: Jasper Jacobs/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw