One in five at UK festivals sexually assualted or harassed, survey shows

Yougov poll finds incidents rarely reported to authorities although men more likely to do so

The poll showed 22% of all people who have been to a festival in the UK faced some kind of unwanted sexual behaviour, rising  to 43% among women under 40. File  photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The poll showed 22% of all people who have been to a festival in the UK faced some kind of unwanted sexual behaviour, rising to 43% among women under 40. File photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

 

One in five British festivalgoers have experienced sexual assault or harassment at an event, according to new research.

Campaigners said the figures, believed to be the first of their kind, should be a wake-up call for the industry to start treating sexual violence as seriously as other crimes at festivals.

The poll showed 22 per cent of all people who have been to a festival in the UK faced some kind of unwanted sexual behaviour, rising to 30 per cent among women and 43 per cent of women under 40.

The most common forms of unwanted sexual behaviour experienced by respondents were unwelcome and forceful dancing and sexualised verbal harassment.

Eleven per cent of women had experienced sexual assault while they were conscious, compared with three per cent of men, and four per cent of women said they were sexually assaulted while unconscious or asleep, compared with two per cent of men.

Only two per cent of festivalgoers who were assaulted or harassed reported the incident to the police, according to the figures, suggesting the issue is significantly under-reported. Separate data released in the Crime Survey for England and Wales in February showed more than 80 per cent of victims of sexual assault did not report it to police.

The poll, in which YouGov surveyed 1,188 festivalgoers also revealed:

– Seventy per cent of those who experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival said the perpetrator was a stranger.

– Only 1 per cent of women reported sexual assault or harassment to a member of festival staff, either before or after the event, although 19 per cent of men reported their experience to staff.

– When people were asked how satisfied they were with how festivals they attended handled the issue, 45 per cent said they did not know and 24 per cent said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, suggesting a lack of awareness around festival policies and safeguards. A total of 22 per cent said they were satisfied and 8 per cent said they were dissatisfied.

Tracey Wise, founder of campaign group Safe Gigs For Women, said: “We have struggled to find anyone with any definite statistics on this before now.

“It gives us something to show to festival organisers so we can say ‘you need to take this on board’.”

Jen Calleja, a co-director of the Good Night Out Campaign, called the research “shocking but not surprising”, saying it “helps prove what we already know through anecdotal evidence”.

“We know that the vast amount of harassment and sexual assault is not reported and we know this comes down to stigma, fear of not being believed and a minimisation of what harassment is,” she said.

February’s Crime Survey statistics found one in five women had experienced some form of sexual assault since they turned 16.

Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said festivals “have a duty to make their events as safe and secure and enjoyable” as possible, but that some responsibility also lies with festivalgoers to report problems.

“People shouldn’t feel that they need to tolerate the type of behaviour [at festivals] that they wouldn’t tolerate in the street,” he said, adding that raising awareness around the importance of consent and bystander intervention was paramount.

“If people don’t intervene, then this behaviour becomes normalised,” he said.

“The idea we want to put forward is that harassment is everybody’s problem, it’s not just the person who is being assaulted,” added Ms Calleja.

Hundreds of thousands of people flock to UK festivals every year but organisers of some of the UK’s biggest festivals – including Glastonbury, Creamfields and the Reading and Leeds festivals – declined to comment on the new figures. – PA