I was upset and disgusted to read about the 2 alleged rapes that occurred this weekend at Latitude festival. I went a few years ago, and had an incredible time. Ever since, I've said it's the only UK festival I would go to (other than ATP, which doesn't really count) because as a music-loving non-drinker, I felt entirely at ease, wandering about by myself.
I do a lot of that at festivals, because I'd rather be seeing as many bands as possible than getting trashed in a tent*. I've often headed back alone at night to my tent to join the campfire festivities. And who really wants to have to wake up their friends in the night so that they have an escort for the loo?
Obviously, the organisers of Latitude have expressed their dismay at these horrible events. Unfortunately, they have come up with a rather patronising solution, to ensure that nothing like this happens again:
"Festivals provide an element of outdoor freedom. That is integral but our ability to inform young girls in particular about the dangers of sexual predators is something we can do more on, and we will."
In this ineffectual, and frankly nonsensical, statement, Melvyn Benn, the chief executive of Festival Republic, heaps responsibility onto 'young girls'. Apparently, instead of enjoying the 'outdoor freedom', we should be worrying about rapists leading us off into the woods. It's not that I don't think that we should be concerned with personal safety at all, it's that I object to the burden of fear and trepidation that women are supposed to carry. Instead of telling men not to rape, instead of educating about the intricacies of consent, about respecting women's bodies and boundaries, women are simply told that we're never safe.
And, realistically, can we ever live like that? Can we live our whole lives never walking alone after dark, never going to see a band, or enjoying a festival on our own? I don't think we can, or nor should we have to. Making women invisible and afraid won't stop rapes or rapists. It'll only make women who have been raped feel responsible for not taking enough precautions.
How about, as well as tightening security and lighting the site more effectively, Latitude attempt to educate people about rape? How about they encourage potential rapists to take responsibility for themselves, and their actions.
How about something like this attached to every tree:
RAPISTS/POTENTIAL RAPISTS. DO NOT RAPE. IT DOESN'T MATTER IF SHE'S ALONE, SCANTILY DRESSED, DRUNK OR ON DRUGS. IT ALSO DOESN'T MATTER IF SHE'S INVITED YOU INTO HER TENT, OR SHE'S BEEN MAKING OUT WITH YOU. NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE EXCUSES FOR RAPE.
Now, I know it may be a little unorthodox, but it would definitely make me feel safer at a festival, instead of paranoid about personal safety. But maybe society doesn't women to feel safe, maybe it suits them that we remain scared and not too bold. But that's probably a post for another day...
*(Getting trashed in a tent is also totally fine, I just find alcohol yucky and boring.)