Festivals Black Out Websites Over Sex Assaults

Some of the South Coast's biggest festivals are blacking out their websites for 24 hours - to highlight sexual assaults at music events.

Bestival and BoomTown Fair are joining others around the country from 9am today (Monday 8 May) - to promise 'zero tolerance' and encourage people to report any attacks.

The Safer Spaces campaign, organised by the Association Of Independent Festivals (AIF) alongside Rape Crisis England & Wales, urges festival-goers to take a ``zero tolerance to sexual assault'' including encouraging them to not be a bystander if they witness an incident.

For a 24-hour period, visitors to 28 festival websites will be given information about Safer Spaces and the events will also promote the #SaferSpacesAtFestivals hashtag on social media.

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Alongside the blackout, more than 60 members of the AIF have committed to initiatives ensuring a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment. These include providing confidential welfare services to any victims, ensuring on-site staff and volunteers are trained to deal with sexual violence, and promising to take a victim-led approach when dealing with assaults or harassment.

Renae Brown, AIF campaign manager, said the initiatives were aiming to ``tackle these issues in both a sensitive and impactful way - pushing awareness of sexual safety to the fore''.

Rebecca Hitchen, operations co-ordinator at Rape Crisis South London, said it was ``vital that as much as possible is done to ensure festivals can be safe spaces, free from sexual violence.

``It's really positive to see event organisers commit to training and strategies aimed at preventing sexual assault and rape at festivals, as well as making sure those who do experience these crimes get access to appropriate support,'' she added.

Secret Garden Party founder Freddie Fellowes said it was essential for events and the public to come together to ``try and eradicate this totally unacceptable behaviour''.

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