For most of us our summer plans will include a hedonistic weekend at a festival, dancing, drinking and celebrating in what we perceive as a safe, care-free atmosphere. So if by now the news of a slew of sexual assaults at two major festivals in Sweden this weekend has reached you, it's likely you are reeling. So too are Mumford and Sons who headlined Bravalla festival and have announced they will boycott the event going forward.
Five rapes and 12 accounts of sexual violence were reported over the three days of Bravalla in Norrkoping. According to Swedish police, three of the victims were under age 15 and the majority were 18 and under.
Mumford and Sons took to Facebook with a post stating that "Festivals are a celebration of music and people, a place to let go and feel safe doing so. We're gutted by these hideous reports." They vowed that they would not perform at the event again until they were assured that police and organisers were actively working to control the prevalence of assaults.
At Bravalla bracelets baring the slogan "Don't grope" were distributed to festival-goers by police. But, as is evident from the prevalence of sexually violent attacks at the festival this superficial sentiment is far from enough to prevent the problem.
Over the same weekend at Putte I Parken festival in Karlstad, a staggering 32 instances of sexual assault were reported, for which seven men are reportedly being investigated as suspects.
In response to the crimes, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said the situation was “totally unacceptable” and told Associated Press that laws on sexual assault would be tightened.
“We are in the process of reviewing them,” he said in a speech at a political seminar. “It’s also important that we continue to ensure that police, prosecutors and other officials are better equipped to investigate such crimes and actually catch the perpetrators.”
Commenters on Mumford and Sons post have been fast to point to the fact that instances of sexual assault at festivals aren't a problem exclusive to Sweden. Indeed, the news of a woman being allegedly raped at V Festival and another at Secret Garden Party last year, and of three sexual assaults at Glastonbury 2015 were chilling revelation to British festival goers. While at Roskilde festival in Sweden's neighbouring Denmark last weekend, police said they had reports of five cases of alleged sexual assault.
The commenters on the Mumford post also highlighted the possibility that the recent media attention on sexual assaults at festivals in Sweden may have led to a higher rate of victims becoming confident to come forward to report the crimes, rather than necessarily a rise in the number of assaults taking place. Which is of course a positive step forward in transforming attitudes towards sexual assault crimes.
We can all agree, however, that so much more needs to be done to prevent sexual assault from occurring at festivals in the first place. As well as improved safety measures, a shift in societal attitudes needs to occur so that people are better educated about the meaning of consent. As Mumford & Sons suggested in their post, festivals should be "a place to let go" so change needs to happen so that women globally can enjoy their music weekenders unabashedly.
If you've been a victim of sexual assault you can seek help and advice at Rape Crisis or speak to someone on their helpline at 0808 802 9999.