Words by Ben Bowman.
As the issue regarding sexual assault at gigs is becoming far more rife within our social domain, I spoke to Bea from Girls Against about the success of their campaign and what their plans are for next year. Girls Against serve as an outlet for help for victims who have had to go through the distress of sexual abuse at a gig and are on the campaign trail to eradicate this from becoming a far more serious issue.
What was it that initially triggered you to set up Girls Against?
After we all experienced uncomfortable and distressing circumstances at gigs, we came together to try and put a stop to this happening to anyone else. We didn’t want others to feel as vulnerable as we did, or for the enjoyment of people at gigs to be disrupted by events such as this.
I have recently been made aware of an incident that occurred at a gig in which a young girl experienced elaborate forms of sexual harassment at a gig, and after a court case the man was convinced not guilty – given how distressed the victim clearly would have been, do you have any advice for girls or boys who experience this situation?
I think the big issue with sexual assault is that it isn’t taken seriously enough, especially at gigs. I would advise victims to not give up and to keep pursuing what is right – however this is easier said than done. I think the most important thing is to reassure them that there’s always people to talk to and help them professionally, and hopefully one day there will be a change in the attitudes towards sexual assault and justice can be restored.
Continuing on from that, is it rare that you hear of situations at gigs in which boys become victims of sexual harassment?
Although male sexual assault is less common than women experiencing sexual assault, it does still occur. We hear experiences from all genders of all ages and are aware that this is happening to everyone, not just women.
Have you had any incidents in which people have come forward to you directly regarding a sexual harassment incident at a gig?
Our direct messages are always open on twitter and we use our platform to reach out to victims. Many who feel comfortable to do so share their stories with us and ask for advice. I think having us there to talk to helps, as the issues of sexual assault at gigs are rarely discussed. We have heard many distressing experiences, making us want to progress with the campaign even more.
Given the steady rise of yourselves over the last few years, how proud does it make you feel to be seen as a genuine outlet for help?
I feel extremely proud of what Girls Against has achieved. It makes me feel great knowing that I am making a difference and that people are benefitting from the work we’re doing. When people approach me thanking us for what we’re doing, it makes me want to work even harder to fight these issues.
What do you make of the news that the 02 academy in Newcastle has put in place compulsory breathalyzer tests for all under 18s at their gigs?
It’s a difficult one to discuss. I think the venue has it’s valid reasons for putting this procedure in place, however I think there’s a slim line between linking alcohol consumption with sexual assault. Many use this to victim blame, or in fact to get away with their actions. I think the venue wants to reduce the amount of underage drinking for licensing purposes more than anything.
Finally, do you have any big plans for Girls Against in 2017?
2017 is going to be a great year for Girls Against. Our big dream is to collaborate with big charities and organisations, tackle the festivals and hopefully have our own gig at some point in the future! But we’ll just have to wait and see!!!
Make sure you follow Girls Against on twitter here!
Interview by Ben Bowman, you can follow Ben on twitter here.