If you're going to a music festival this summer, you have a lot of things to worry about: what you're going to wear, how to craft the perfect Kendall Jenner space buns and, of course, how you're going to avoid being sexually assaulted. It's truly horrible that women should have to worry about being raped or harassed when they embark upon a festival experience, but the truth is that music festivals have become a concentrated arena for sexual crimes. Massive crowds and the widespread consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs create an environment where people are easily lost, silenced and taken advantage of. What's worse, the companies who sponsor popular music festivals often do their best to prevent any instances of sexual assault from being publicized. The result is an illusion of the music festival as a place where you can let your guard down and enjoy a Woodstock-esque community of peace, love and music. In reality, festivals can be a place where personal safety is ignored and transgressed. Here's what you can do to protect yourself.
Before you start your day at a festival, you should make sure to have a few important items with you: your mobile phone, your ID and any insurance card you might have, as well as a list with your friends' phone numbers and an emergency contact. This way, if you lose your phone, you'll still be able to get in contact with friends or family if you need to. I can't tell you how many times my phone has died and I couldn't contact anyone because I didn't know their phone number (perks of being a Millennial). Another good way to start your day at a festival is to buy a water bottle before the lines get out of control. Dehydration is a serious problem at music festivals, especially when alcohol is involved. When you're dehydrated, your reaction time is slower and you're more likely to faint from heat and other stress-related factors. The last thing you want is to pass out in a crowd of people you don't know.
Although music festivals are renowned for their popular drug scene, it's not always a good idea to experiment with new drugs while you're at a festival. Studies show that your body reacts differently to controlled substances like MDMA and alcohol when you're in an unfamiliar place, intensifying the effect. For instance, having one beer at a music festival is actually like having three beers. You could easily be surpassing your limit without realizing it and end up in a dangerous place both mentally and physically.
Everybody knows the buddy system is important, but at a festival it's absolutely paramount. If you're going to a festival with a group of friends, be sure to pick out a place to meet up if someone gets lost. This place should be central, public and close to health and safety facilities. If you end up on your own, avoid enclosed spaces or overwhelming crowds. If you're by yourself and you look lost or confused, your chances of becoming a target for physical or sexual assault increase significantly.
Another important thing to remember is to stand up for yourself. The large crowds at festivals give people the sense of being anonymous and therefore they feel as though they can get away with more than they usually could. One of the biggest complaints of female festival-goers is that they're groped in the crowds. If you do feel someone touching you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, say something! Most people who grope women do so with the belief that there will be no repercussions and that no one will say anything. Confronting them is the best way to let them know that you're not going to sit still and wait for it to be over.
Lastly, you should always know your rights. Just because you're wearing provocative clothing, drinking or using drugs does not mean that you're 'asking' to be sexually harassed or assaulted. If you experience sexual assault or harassment, report it. A festival is a place of freedom and fun, but it's not a free-for-all. Anyone who infringes upon your personal safety is always in the wrong, no matter what you're wearing or how much you've had to drink. Every music festival has a police or security team available whose purpose is to protect you. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Video: Festival Safety