Two rapes and other reported incidents at Latitude, alongside a series of other sexual assaults reported at T in the Park and the Isle of Wight festival have cast a gloomy shadow over our vibrant, ever growing and unique UK festival scene. We all need to work together as a priority to make sure that our festivals remain the predominantly safe places they've always been, we also need to take responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe so we can all enjoy whichever festival we choose safely while having maximum fun.
There is no doubt that UK festivals are overwhelmingly safe events to be part of, they are unique places filled with wonder and enjoyment where people go to let their hair down and relax while enjoying some of the best entertainment that the UK has to offer in the most free environment we currently have. There's a plethora of top quality events on offer, all different, all varied, with something to offer everyone whatever your musical taste happens to be. The current burgeoning festival scene has attracted more and more converts as whole families take advantage of what’s on offer with many choosing a festival or two as their main annual holiday. That the UK is lucky to have such a remarkable array of events without turning them into Disneyland and without (so far at least), curtailing our freedom to the point where they become uninspiring is a testament to those who arrange and organise these events. But festival organisers alongside festival goers must now take action to stop the rogue element that's beginning to creep in.
Alongside this ever growing festival scene there is appearing a darker side, and one that needs to be addressed urgently and swiftly. With such huge numbers festivals are now attracting diverse cross sections of society and with that change comes the bad as well as the good. The bad this year has started to dominate headlines and alongside the positive we are now having to report on the seedier side of human nature and the downside of thousands of people having one big party.
The horrific sexual assaults at Latitude this weekend have shocked every seasoned festival goer and organiser to the core. Although the 2010 festival season has brought us some of the most impressive events to date with outstanding and memorable performances some festivals are going to be remembered for the wrong reasons. With the assaults and general mayhem at T in the Park and even at the Isle of Wight, it's becoming clear that midway through this season festival goers and organisers are having to become more aware than ever about personal safety at festivals.
During the final night of the Isle of Wight Festival a 19-year-old woman was indecently assaulted near the 'Big Top' area of the Festival site.
Scotland's T in the Park festival was marred when an 18-year-old girl was raped in the back of a van after being abducted from the campsite. The teenager was lured into a van by two men who drove her away from the site and one attacked her while the other banged on the side of the van to cover her screams. The girl, who had arrived at the festival on Friday with friends, was later thrown out of the van at an area near the festival venue. In another incident reported to have happened late on the Saturday night a 20-year-old woman attending the festival was sexually assaulted near the bus parking area, the attacker was disturbed during the assault by two women who happened to be walking past at the time.
This weekend at Latitude festival a nineteen-year-old girl was gang raped near one of the festival's camp sites on the Thursday night of the festival. The woman had left her tent in the red area of the campsite to find the toilet but lost her way so she approached a group of young men for help. After walking with the group for some distance some of the males left to go in another direction while the others led the victim off a path and into a wooded area where she was raped.
At the same festival a 17-year-old girl reported that she had been raped in a tent on the campsite on the Friday night, it has been stated that the second incident occurred between two people "who had become acquainted with each other".
It has also been reported that another girl had been chased to her tent by a gang of youths on the same Thursday that the gang rape was said to have happened.
So those are the facts as we know them at the moment, and they don't make for comfortable reading.
With festivals now attracting such huge numbers personal safety becomes ever more important. We all know that on holiday people let their guard down and behave in ways that they maybe wouldn't do at home, becoming more trusting and prone to make errors of judgment, add drink or drugs into the mix and it's easy to become a target for some of the seedier members of the population that prey on the unwary. Remember that these criminals have an expertise for honing in on a possible target and will be planning what they will do and who they will target. You may find yourself letting your guard down at a festival - you wouldn't let your guard down to such an extent at home so it's wise to remain vigilant at a festival. One big enormous party isn't as easy to deal with as we'd all like to think, you can't tell who the good guys or the bad guys are just by looking at them.
We've put a few tips together as a starting point and will be looking into this issue in more depth over the coming weeks. Remember that festivals are fun, largely safe and we want you to remember them for all the right reasons, just a few plans to protect your own safety can help make sure that you enjoy your festival experience just as festivals should be and not marred by the actions of a very small but dangerous minority.
We'll be adding a lot more information over the coming weeks and have more on our crowd safety pages including the festival survival guide and how to keep yourself safe in a crowd.
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