PERTH’S music and entertainment venues have a widespread harassment problem.
Two thirds of respondents to a Safer Venues WA survey reported that they experiencd nonconsensual touching and a third that they were assaulted at a gig.
The survey of 550 artists, venue staff, promoters and punters found female and non-binary/trans respondents were far more likely to experience harassment. Other findings included:
• 90 per cent of women experienced unwanted sexual comments at least once;
• 83 per cent of women experiencing nonconsensual touching at least once, and many said it happened “often” or “every time”;
• 35 per cent of respondents had been assaulted (either sexually or physically) at a gig at least once;
• 40 per cent had left a gig early after being harassed or intimidated.
Safer Venues WA formed after a Northbridge venue used misogynist slogans on huge banners as part of a marketing campaign for a 2016 New Years Eve frat party.
“This, coupled with increasing instances of harassment and assault at our gigs, had seemingly reached an industry crisis point,” SVWA’s Samantha Martin and Kate Daniel told the Voice via email. “
They got together with about 30 community members including feminist writer Xanthea O’Connor and musicians Stella Donnelly, Amber Fresh and Jennifer Aslett, and sent out the survey in August.
Ms Martin and Ms Daniel write: “We often share experiences of harassment and assault within the industry, but this survey is our first effective tool to communicate to our wider audiences that we are facing a crisis: with 550 respondents, 67 per cent have experienced harassment or assault at a music event or gig.
“Today, given the global impact of the #metoo campaign, our grassroots efforts are more relevant and more critical than we ever anticipated.”
They argue there are steps venues can take to increase safety including a house policy: typically signs that state that abuse or harassment will get you removed from the venue.
Ms Daniel is door manager at Scarborough venue El Grotto, and says it helps to inform patrons about those standards when they enter, and responsibly remove people threatening others’ safety.
During WAMFest, 19 venues rolled out trial SFWA suggestions for better practices, and the The Bird in Northbridge and Mojo’s in Fremantle have had positive feedback to their pro-safety, pro-respect signage.
The group says it’s in venue owners’ best interests to make their customers feel safer.
Forty per cent of respondents had left a gig early after experiencing harassment, and 20 per cent said concerns over personal safety was a major barrier to them attending music events.
The venue’s reputation was considered a major barrier by 26 per cent.
Alcohol was perceived as the biggest catalyst for harassment or intimidation (followed by gender or sexuality-based harassment), so the group is hoping to encourage better training for staff around the responsible service of alcohol.
“It’s still early days for engaging with venues, but it’s something we’re very optimistic about,” Ms Daniel and Ms Martin wrote to us.
“One of the real strengths of being a grassroots organisation is that we’re still active in local industries. As individuals, we have a lot of existing relationships with venues (including The Bird, Mojo’s Fremantle and El Grotto), musos, promoters etc who have really strong and collaborative intentions to make progressive change.”
The group’s online at http://www.facebook.com/safervenuesWA, which includes links to the full stats.
by DAVID BELL