There is a rising movement globally to support positive change and acknowledge the experiences of those who are more at risk from incidents of sexual assault and harassment – typically, but not exclusively, women.
All Festivals have a zero-tolerance policy towards any kind of sexual assault or harassment. There is no evidence to suggest that more of these incidents take place at festivals, but organisers take this issue incredibly seriously in their planning and practices. This includes the provision of welfare services, 24 hour security and close working relationships with police and other relevant agencies.
If you or any of your friends experience any kind of sexual assault or harassment you should report it immediately and know that it will be taken very seriously by police and event organisers.
Consent means agreeing to do something. When it comes to sex, this means someone agreeing to take part in a sexual activity. Any form of sexual contact without consent is illegal whatever the age of the people involved. If you do not give consent and a person still engages in a sexual act, this is sexual assault or rape. Remember you shouldn’t ever feel pressured into any kind of sexual activity. It’s ok to say no or change your mind. (Read more about understanding consent and sexual health here).
Safety and protection are important (read more about how to avoid crime at festivals here), but there also needs to be a focus on the cause and prevention of harassment and assault.
The Association of Independent Festivals Safer Spaces At Festivals campaign and charter of best practice relaunched in May 2022 to tackle sexual violence, harassment and assault at festivals. Over 100 festivals have signed up to the charter which states that all allegations of sexual harassment, assault and violence will be taken seriously, acted upon promptly and investigated.
The Safer Spaces campaign also encourages festival goers to play an active role in promoting safety by being an active bystander.
The 5 D’s of being an active bystander:
Within a festival community we should all help model a culture of respect. We can do this by looking out for each other and being aware of how our own behaviour can, sometimes unintentionally, make others feel.
Spiking is when someone puts alcohol or other drugs into a person’s drink or body without their knowledge or consent.
Even if someone has been consensually taking alcohol or other drugs, spiking is never ok and never the victims fault. All blame and shame lies with the perpetrator.
Why are people spiked?
Someone may be spiked by an individual who is trying to incapacitate them in order to commit a crime including sexual assault or robbery.
According to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 spiking someone with the intention of overpowering them to enable sexual activity is a serious criminal offence which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, whether or not an assault actually took place. Read more about crime at festivals.
People are sometimes spiked by their friends as a prank or because they think they are doing them a ‘favour’ by giving them drugs.
You should never covertly give a friend alcohol or other drugs without their consent. This can be extremely dangerous.
How are people spiked?
Spiking can happen in a number of ways:
There has been a lot of media coverage about injection spiking in recent months, but there is very little evidence to suggest this is widespread or commonplace. Alcohol is still the most common substance used to spike people.
These symptoms can come into effect within 15 minutes, depending on what a person has been spiked with. Symptoms can last for several hours.
It’s important to remember that someone may experience these symptoms if they have consensually taken alcohol and other drugs, therefore they are not always a sign that someone has being spiked. Read more about how to reduce harm when taking alcohol and other drugs.
If you think someone has been spiked:
At some events test kits may be available that can identify certain substances that are commonly used to spike people. If you are worried you have been spiked they may be able to provide one of these.
There are a number of products that you can buy which claim to reduce the risk of spiking. Some events may have these available on site but you can also buy and bring them with you
Drug facilitated sexual assault can occur when someone is spiked with the intention of committing a sexual crime or when a perpetrator takes advantage of someone’s vulnerability when they have consensually taken alcohol or other drugs, but are unable to consent to sexual activity. This can happen in a number of ways:
Sexual assault is never ok. If you or any of your friends experience this kind of behaviour you should report it immediately and know that it will be taken very seriously by police and event organisers. It doesn’t matter if you have chosen to take alcohol or other drugs, you will be listened to and given the support you need.
Over 100 festivals have signed the Safer Spaces at Festival Charter and are committed to delivering a safe environment for customers, staff and performers. This includes taking every allegation of sexual assault or violence seriously and taking a survivor-led approach that is underpinned with policies, procedures and training.
Festival organisers take reports of assault, harassment and spiking at events very seriously. If you experience this kind of behaviour, you should report it and feel confident that you will be believed and supported.
You can report incidents to any of the following on site at events:
If you experience a serious assault, whoever you report this to should escalate it immediately to the event management team who can contact the police.
The festival welfare team will have trained, caring professionals on site who can support anyone who experiences assault or harassment.