As many people know, 2 women were raped at Latitude this weekend. As a result, the UK’s biggest festival organisers are launching a personal safety campaign for female fans.
Melvin Benn, chief exec of Festival Republic has said:
"It is fair to say that in the future we will be making much more high profile the issues of being alone at night, particularly if you are a girl – definitely,"
As well as the problematic use of the word ‘girls’, we yet again have a situation where women are being told to be cautious as a result of the actions of a number of men – two male rapists and a group of men who aided in one of the rapes.
One of the rape victims was attacked after going to the toilet. The second was raped in a tent.
As I am sure many of you appreciate, it is impossible to not go to the toilet, and not be in a tent during a festival. So, apart from warning women to not go to festivals, or to not at any point leave the side of a ‘buddy’ even when going to the loo or going to sleep, a campaign telling women to ‘keep safe’ wouldn’t have prevented the attacks.
It seems to me that men such as Benn, who I am sure has the best intentions, do not understand that every where they go, festivals, clubbing, walking home from work, walking to the shops, walking to school, being in school, being at home, everywhere they are women are aware of the threat of rape. Telling women again and again to be careful in case they get raped is never going to change anything.
If Festival Republic want to make sure no other woman is raped at one of their festivals, then they need to do a public safety campaign that targets rapists.
I would like to suggest that we send a letter to Melvin Benn explaining and suggesting this. I couldn’t find an email address but they have a contact us page on their website.
This is the letter I am going to write. As ever, please feel free to use and send yourselves.
I read in the Guardian today that as a response to the two rapes at the Latitude festival you and Festival Republic will be launching a public safety campaign to raise women’s awareness of the risks of violence at a festival, with advice on how to keep safe.
Although I appreciate this campaign comes from the very best intentions, and indeed it is certainly necessary for men and women alike to understand how to keep safe from crime at a festival, I do find it troubling that your campaign is targeting women, and advising them how to prevent themselves being a victim of rape.
Women are consistently given warnings about how they can and should alter their behaviour to prevent rape. But rape is not a natural hazard, such as falling off a cliff, something that women can protect themselves from. Women cannot prevent rape from happening to them by following a set of rules. The only way rape can be prevented is if the rapist chooses not to rape.
I would like to request that you consider running a safety campaign that instead of telling women to keep themselves safe from rape, actively encourages potential rapists not to rape. Women the world over know themselves to be vulnerable to rape, in a society where it is estimated 100,000 rapes happen every year. The rapes at Latitude happened when a woman was returning from the toilet and when a woman was in a tent. Unfortunately, no public safety campaign aimed at women is going to stop women from having to go to the toilet, or to sleep. And a safety campaign aimed at telling women to ‘be safe’ is never going to prevent a rapist from raping.
Rather than putting the onus onto women to prevent rape by curtailing their own freedom of movement at a festival which should be fun and exciting, it would be wonderful to see a campaign that pushed forward the idea that the only person who can prevent rape, is the person/group of people who is planning to rape.
Please consider this strategy as a way to make Latitude, and your other events, a safe and positive space for women to be.
Sian Norris, Bristol Feminist Network.