By Joseph Mathieu
Illustration by Jason Vaughan
Large gatherings, music festivals in particular, always have risks involved. Mosh pits, drunkenness, and dehydration are pretty regular music fest fare. Show-goers expect all that.
But no one should have to accept the risk of sexual assault as part of the price of admission. And yet it’s fact that predators use the anonymity and chaos of crowds to their advantage.
“Some men in Ottawa have used large events to find women they don’t know to target with violence,” reads a guide to bystander intervention by Project SoundCheck.
The project’s purpose is to end sexual violence at large gatherings, which made up a quarter of reported sexual assaults in Ottawa, according to research done in 2013 and 2014.
“We know this is scary information,” it continues, “but there are things we can do about it.”
Kim Moss, the president of Kamp Operations, is doing everything she can to combat this issue.
In recent months her event management company has boosted training for what she calls “the safety team.” The group of individuals cover everything from safe partying practices, harm reduction, and accessibility awareness also takes a lot from Project SoundCheck guidelines.
Being able to identify a situation that could lead to sexual assault is key. Once, at a 2014 festival she declined to identify, Moss and her team didn’t take a chance, they checked in. That made all the difference.
A woman had passed out while dancing wildly. She was discovered because she was in a well-populated area. When she came to, she was confused, saying she had only had one drink. A man with her said that he would take her home, that she was drunk but fine. When the first aid team assessment was the same—that she was “drunk but fine”—they released her back to the grounds. That’s when Moss stepped in.
“We were not okay with that. We sat with her for two hours until her brother came and got her,” Moss said.
Meanwhile, the man she’d been with relentlessly tried to get close to her, to offer to take her home.
“There is no doubt in my mind that he was a predator,” Moss said. “I think he was scared of being found out.”
On August 15, Kamp Ops hosted a training evening at the McNabb Community Centre that touched on a wide variety of gray zones and inclusivity issues. They brought together representative members of Queering 613, Accessibility for Humanity, Babely Shades, the AIDS Community Team, and Project SoundCheck.
Kamps Ops co-founder Albert Porter said they realised just how extensive training needs to be.
“We ran through training in two and a half hours, and realized it’s going to need to be about another 12,” said Porter.
Over its five years in operation, Kamps Ops has trained and worked with over 3,500 volunteers that take part in their security, hydration, and safety teams. Next year’s festival season will feature a full-time addition of the safety team to the roster.
The methods are preventative, classified as sensitivity training, but the endgame is clear: shutting down sexual assault.
“I want to get to a place where the fear is on the assailant, not the victim,” said Moss. •