Written by Bea Bennister – Co-founder of Girls Against and URF Member
October 2017 marked the 2 year anniversary of the campaign and movement Girls Against. Set up to fight against sexual harassment and assault at gigs, Girls Against provides a support system for victims who previously may not have felt comfortable speaking out, whilst stamping out the stigma that groping at gigs is just a ‘norm’. As one of 5 original founders of this campaign, I am so proud of our achievements in the last 2 years, and am equally as privileged to have been given the platform that we have.
Girls Against was set up in 2015 as a social media movement to support victims of sexual assault at gigs. Since then, we have produced posters and flyers that are up in venues all around the country, and have joined forces with organisations such as AIF (The Association of Independent Festivals), SecuriGroup and Young Scot, helping to home in on why it is considered ‘OK’ for sexual assault to be happening at gigs. After experiencing unpleasant or frankly horrifying acts of harassment at gigs ourselves, we wanted to ensure that there was a platform available that victims can go to for support. The nature of gigs means it’s often hard to distinguish the line between what is ‘accidental’ and assault, and whether the line was crossed far enough for one to actually do anything about it. Reporting someone touching your bum to a member of security often involves leaving the crowd, waiting around for security to be free, losing your friends in the process and ending up alone to the side after being told ‘there’s nothing we can do without proof’. It’s frustrating and makes the victim feel like the idiot, with the perpetrator, once again, getting away with it. This makes reporting assault rare, and many feel like they have nobody to talk to afterwards – this is what we wanted to change.
In 2015 Girls Against was catapulted into the public eye only 48 hours after the Twitter page went live. NME picked up on our conversation and suddenly we were being heard and talked about. The realisation that this was not such a small thing anymore spurred us into a frenzy of ideas regarding all the things we could achieve. Even now there are so many things to do and work towards, and I know we have the ability to complete them. Girls Against currently has around 50 reps worldwide and mass support from a large number of bands including Peace and Slaves. We’ve evolved from just the 5 of us to a worldwide community of people who are all passionate about the same thing.
Girls Against has been the biggest learning curve I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes others and even ourselves forget that we’re a group of teenage girls who juggle this campaign with school and uni work, alongside a home and a social life. This campaign is not easy to run. There are days where we all slack and fall behind on the work required to keep it moving; there are days where we’re in tears because something that we thought was going to be amazing didn’t get the response we’d hoped for. However, there are also days where I can’t see myself wanting to do anything else. I find myself answering 5 to 10 press emails and 3-5 Twitter DM’s a day; conducting emails to venues, security companies and other social campaigns; answering twitter notifications; keeping the blog updated; conducting interviews; handling merch orders; managing our international Girls Against reps, wondering to myself – how the hell did this happen? Nevertheless, the fact that we get to help people every day and see the real life impact of what we are doing makes up for the stress.
The influence that Girls Against has is dizzying. From what started out as an idea on a group chat has developed into an international movement with over 17,000 followers and international press coverage. When I reflect on the conversation that has erupted from Girls Against and the difference we have made in simply initiating discussion about sexual assault, I can’t help but smile to myself. But there is a long (long) way to go. Just this September we saw Alvvays’ Molly Rankin experience a stage invader whose unwanted advances show that the normalisation of sexual assault is far from over. October saw Loyle Carner stop his gig to remove a sexist member of the crowd; whilst Sam Carter, lead singer of the metal band Architects, also did the same after he spotted someone being groped. Girls Against still gets reports from victims every day, but looking positively, this may be due to the increased discussion and confidence to come forward. This was our aim in the first place.
I’m immensely excited to discover what I can achieve with Girls Against in the next chapter of my life at University. I’m excited to develop as a campaign, and I’m excited fight for what we all believe in. I’m excited to contact security and find out why they aren’t doing more; I’m excited to get on board with other larger sexual assault campaigns who have been showing us the ropes; and I’m excited to join forces with thousands more people who love gigs as much as we do and want to keep them as a safe place. The victims are why we set up this campaign and all of our supporters are the reason that we are still going. Everything else is just extra.
Girls Against aims to be the person at the other end of the line ready to comfort and help you to process your experience, setting you on the way to moving forwards.
If you have experienced any form of sexual assault/harassment, or events that have made you feel uncomfortable at gigs, please contact us:
Twitter: @girlsagainst (our DM’s are always open)