87.5% of participants in a new study perceive sexual harassment to be a common occurrence at music festivals. 74.1% perceive sexual assault to be a common occurrence at festivals.

3o.2% of participants believed sexual harassment happened “very often”.

That’s according to the first study into perceptions and experiences of sexual violence at Australian music festivals.

The Conversation has published an online survey of 500 people who attend Australian music festivals, and asked them about their perceptions of safety and sexual violence at festivals.

The study was conducted by UNSW’s Dr Bianca Fileborn and Dr Phillip Wadds, with Western Sydney University’s Professor Stephen Tomsen.

On top of this, the aforementioned spoke to 16 people who had either experienced sexual violence, or been involved in responding to an incident, at an Australian music festival.

While the participants’ perceptions of sexual violence is quite alarming, 61.5% of those surveyed actually said they “usually” felt safe at music festivals – a testament to the work of local promoters and industry figures who are increasingly prioritising punter safety when it comes to sexual harassment.

The panel of industry names behind Your Choice
A panel of music industry heavyweights banded together in 2017 to launch Your Choice, a music industry-focused campaign to stamp out assault and abuse in Victoria’s music scene

Unsurprisingly, 47% of men said they “always” felt safe compared to 20.4% of women, The presence of friends was the most significant factor influencing their sense of safety, and alcohol and drugs were major factors with feeling “unsafe” at a festival.

Among the experiences shared by interview participants, crowded spaces like mosh pits were most frequently identified as sites of sexual violence. The interviewees said in those instances, it was hard to know if an incident was intentional or not.

Shockingly, the survey participants said their experiences with sexual harassment and assault affected the way they dressed and their avoidance of crowded spaces.

The Conversation has noted in its publishing of the survey results that the research supports anecdotal evidence “that sexual violence in various forms is a significant issue at music festivals.

“Of course, it is important to remember that sexual violence occurs across many spaces,” it says. “In fact, it is most likely to occur in private residential areas. So, it is vital not to demonise festivals as particularly problematic spaces.”

The Conversation believes a “one-size-fits-all” solution is unlikely to be effective.