Sexual violence at music festivals: how can we change the tune?

Bianca Fileborn1, Phillip Wadds1
1UNSW, Sydney, Australia

Music festivals form a significant aspect of Australian social and cultural life. For many young Australians, they represent an exciting space to see a favourite band, explore and perform aspects of their identity, cement their social relationships and, perhaps, engage in transgressive behaviour. Yet, music festivals are simultaneously sites of risk, violence and harm. In particular, it is increasingly recognised that they are sites of sexual violence. Despite substantial anecdotal evidence that women routinely encounter sexual harassment and assault at music festivals, to date there has been no research examining the nature of these experiences, or the significance of the festival environment in shaping and facilitating the perpetration of violence.

In this presentation, we draw on findings from a pilot study – the first of its kind internationally – with interviews conducted with 16 survivors who experienced sexual violence at an Australian music festival. We consider the nature of participants’ experiences, and how they were situated within the social, cultural, and spatial environment of festivals. While sexual violence is by no means unique to music festivals, examining how the festival milieu shapes possibilities for such violence is vital in identifying opportunities for better responding to and, ultimately, preventing sexual violence.

Dr Bianca Fileborn is a lecturer in criminology, School of Social Sciences, UNSW.

Dr Phillip Wadds is a lecturer in criminology, School of Social Sciences, UNSW.


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