Garfield Senior High School

The ugly, unspoken truth of Coachella: Sexual harassment and assault

Music festivals, spaces full of crazy dancing, flashing lights, ear-deafening music, photogenic Instagram posts and, unfortunately, unwarranted and uncomfortable touching.

Indeed, the less-reported aspect of the Coachella music festival is arguably the most important one. The sexual harassment that runs rampant in music festivals is rarely ever addressed by organizing committees. One Teen Vogue reporter however, decided to finally address the sexual assault that takes places in such settings and her account was alarming.

Vera Papisova, Teen Vogue’s Features Editor, visited Coachella for the first time and spent a total of 10 hours at the actual festival, where she was groped a horrifying 22 times. Papisova’s experience with sexual assault at the Coachella Festival, however, isn’t unique to her alone. Alarmingly, all 54 women Papisova talked to at the festival claimed experiencing a similar form of sexual assault.

Despite what your social media feed might depict, the dark side of Coachella is real and omnipresent. Sexual assault and harassment is very much a part of all types of festivals across the United States. In fact, one survey conducted by the sexual assault awareness campaign OurMusicMyBody found that over 90 percent of female concert goers have experienced harassment, in the form of inappropriate name-calling, touching and groping.

These patterns of predatory behavior that run unchecked in music festivals are a common occurrence that often go ignored by concert goers for the sake of not making a scene or maintaining high spirits. Yet, it’s not only the victims who remain silent, it’s also surrounding concert goers.

In fact, Papisova reports a certain incident where she turned down a sexual invitation to join someone inside a bathroom stall. The young man who extended the invitation then proceeded to exclaim, “Whoa, that’s a lot of attitude for a no-name model.” All other concert goers also in line for the bathroom stall did absolutely nothing.

At Coachella, where phone service is unreliable in the middle of the desert, concert goers rely heavily on the help of bystanders. But, often bystanders can fail to act. Additionally, it’s not only concert goers and bystanders who willingly ignore the epidemic of sexual assault at music festivals, it’s also the organizers. In fact, Coachella’s official website does not address its sexual assault policies at all. There’s no information available to concert goers about how to get help or who to reach out to if they experience sexaul harrasment.

Coachella, despite it being the highest-grossing music festival in the entire world, has yet to take the necessary actions to combat the prevalent sexual harassment in its festival. On the other hand, organizers of Lollapalooza, a popular music festival in Chicago, are leading the way in combating sexual assault. Their website outlines an anti-harassment policy while their staff members are properly equipped to handle such situations. Moreover, their various medical tents scattered around the festival offer assistance to insure the safety of all their concert goers.

Indeed, as a trailblazer in the music festival industry, Coachella has to address and fight against the widespread harassment taking place at its festival. Music festivals are spaces for fun, high-energy dancing and music listening. Such a fun experience shouldn’t be marred by grabbing hands and inconsiderate words from other concert goers.

There are several things we can do to fight against the present culture that accepts harassment as a commonplace thing. So, if you do happen to find yourself with a ticket to the most lucrative music festival in the world, here are a couple of actions you can take to stop sexual assault for good:

  1. Tweet @coachella to demand that they take action to prevent sexual harassment and assault at their festival.
  2. Feel free to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). The NSAH has personalized counselors on hand to assist a sexual assault victim on what to do next.
  3. Consult the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, to find a local sexual assault service provider. With over a 1,000 providers across the country, RAINN can offer you the support you need.
  4. With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s important to embrace your voice now more than ever. Speak out on your personal experiences and offer some compassion and understanding.