Written By: Lynnaea Le Drew, HSWC Support Worker
It’s music festival season, and over 35 000 people are expected daily at the Squamish Valley Music Festival, August 8-10. Considerable preparation and planning by festival organizers has gone into ensuring the festival is a safe and positive experience for all festival goers. With that said, fear of sexual assault is a reality for all women. Leading up to the festival, it’s important to raise awareness about sexual assault and engage in public discussion regarding sexual assault prevention strategies.
Dispelling Sexual Assault Myths
To preface this article it’s important that two points are understood:
1. Women are never to blame for sexual assault. If a woman has been sexually assaulted, she is the victim of a violent crime. It has nothing to do with what she wore, where she was, who she was with or whether she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of consent (Sexual Assault Facts, Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW)).
2. ‘Safety tips’ or risk reduction tactics aimed at women are problematic and ineffective sexual assault prevention strategies. The issue being, ‘tactics’ that, for example, caution women to limit alcohol consumption or advise against ‘provocative’ dress, place responsibility on women for sexual violence and mitigate the perpetrator’s accountability.
To honor survivors and effect change, prevention strategies need to shift from victim blaming risk reduction tactics to engaging the whole community in sexual violence prevention.
Community of Responsibility
Approaches like the Community of Responsibility model seek to mobilize entire communities in sexual violence prevention. For festival goers this is a call to action to be active bystanders who speak up and say something when you witness inappropriate behaviors, harassment or violence. Choose to be an active bystander. Assume responsibility to prevent sexual assault by learning what constitutes sexual assault, taking action to intervene safely and effectively in situations where sexual assault may be occurring or where there may be a risk, speaking out against social norms supportive of sexual violence, and being an example of consent.
1. Understanding what constitutes sexual assault is the first step to preventing sexual assault. WAVAW describes sexual assault as any form of unwanted sexual contact. It can include kissing, touching, grabbing, or forced sexual intercourse. Sexual assaults are acts of violence usually committed by men against women. In the majority of cases the perpetrator is known to the victim.
2. As a bystander, there are many ways to intervene safely and effectively to prevent sexual assault, depending on the situation. A check-in is one way to intervene in situations where there may be risk of sexual assault. Checking in can be as simple as asking a friend who may be in trouble if she’s okay. Alternately, it may look like creating a diversion to get her out of the situation by, for example, interrupting and asking her to grab food with you, to then check in with her out of ear shot.
3. Call out misogynistic/sexist language, behavior and jokes. Derogatory comments perpetuate social attitudes and norms that support sexual violence. When you hear sexist language, speak up. Challenge your peers to be respectful.
4. Be an Example of Consent. Make sure any sexual act is OK with your partner if you initiate it. Consent must be clearly given every time people engage in sexual contact. Consent requires a clear “yes” not just an absence of “no.” If a person is unconscious or their judgement is impaired by alcohol or drugs, legally, they cannot give consent.
This is a call out to festival goers to stand with each other against sexual assault and to actively promote healthy relationships. Choose to be an engaged and responsible bystander. Help make the festival a safe and positive experience with zero tolerance for sexual assault or violence against women.
Sexual Assault Services
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there is help. Get to a safe place. There is a women’s centre onsite at the Squamish Valley Music Festival staffed with trained volunteers available to support you.
Seeking Medical Attention
Squamish General Hospital can treat you for any physical injuries from the assault and provide preventative treatment for sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancy.
You may choose to have a forensic examination to gather evidence that may be used in court regardless of whether you report the assault to the police at this time. This service is provided at Vancouver General Hospital Emergency Department (920 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver). Contact Women Against Violence Against Women at 1-877-392-7583 for 24 hour hospital accompaniment to Vancouver General Hospital, support and advocacy.
If you decide to report to the police contact the Squamish RCMP 604-892-6100. RCMP Victim Services 604-892-6141 can help you make this decision by guiding you through reporting options, police/court information and support you through the process.
If you do not wish to make a direct report to the police initially but would like to give them information about the assault, a sexual assault worker at WAVAW can file a third party report on your behalf.
Pearl’s Place Transition House operates a 24 Hr. Support Line at 604-892-5711 or 1-877-890-5711. Trained support workers are available 24 hours/day for emotional and practical support.
1) Sea to Sky Women’s Safety Network Sexual Assault Response, Sea to Sky Women’s Safety Network www.whistler.ca/sites/default/files/related/sexual_assault_pamphlet.pdf
2) Sexual Assault Facts, Women Against Violence Against Women
3) “Who are you?” Bystander intervention as another means to end sexual violence, Feministing
4) Engaging Communities in Sexual Violence Prevention, Morgan J Curtis, LMSW http://www.taasa.org/prevention/pdfs/TAASA_ECGuidebook.pdf
5) National Sexual Violence Resource Centre, Joan Tabachnick http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Booklets_Text-Only_Engaging-Bystanders-in-Sexual-Violence-Prevention.pdf
6) What is the Legal Definition of “Consent,” Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/faq/what-legal-definition-consent