Sexual Violence at Music Festivals and the ‘Theory of Silence’: Unravelling the ‘Hideous’ Sexual Assault Problem in Nigerian Open-air Musical Events

AuthorRichard A. Aborisade
Published date01 April 2021
Date01 April 2021
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/25166069211031136
Subject MatterOrginal Articles
Sexual Violence at Music
Festivals and the ‘Theory
of Silence’: Unravelling
the ‘Hideous’ Sexual
Assault Problem in
Nigerian Open-air
Musical Events
Richard A. Aborisade1
Abstract
This study confronts the prevailing culture of silence that trails sexual victimiza-
tion in Nigeria to explore the scale of the problem of sexual violence at open-air
music festivals. In-depth interviews involving 47 female attendees of musical con-
certs, who had experienced different forms of sexual violence, were conducted.
Findings revealed high severity of sexual assault, low reportage, and strong influ-
ence of rape myth acceptance. Refusal to repor t sexual victimization is informed
by the fear of isolation, stigmatization, self-blame and low confidence in the police.
Cultural-shift that will change negative social perception towards rape survivors
and women attending music festivals is suggested.
Keywords
Culture of silence, female victims, music festivals, sexual violence
Introduction
Open-air music festivals in most parts of the world are geared towards inviting
young audiences to liven up the social events with pomp and pageantry. However,
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
4(1) 68–87, 2021
2021 Rajiv Gandhi National
University of Law
Reprints and permissions:
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DOI: 10.1177/25166069211031136
journals.sagepub.com/home/vvj
1 Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun
State, Nigeria.
Corresponding author:
Richard A. Aborisade, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo
University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Nigeria.
E-mail: aborisade.richard@oouagoiwoye .edu.ng
Original Article
Aborisade 69
recent occurrences suggest that these festival events are becoming sites of sexual
harassment and assault against younger women.2 This has led to the convergence
of global attention to these events across the world in respect of the gendered
violence perpetrated in varying degrees. Indeed, the wave of sexual violence
reported at various music festivals has been found to be rising in spite of the paucity
of research attention paid to the phenomenon. For example, open-air musical
events, like the Bravalla music events in Sweden in 2016 and 2017, were plagued
by reports of sexual assaults, which led to the cancellation of the events.3 Also,
there were widespread reports of sexual harassment and assault at California-based
Coachella festival in 2018, which generated a lot of attention.4 Also, the Falls
Festival in Tasmania’s Marion Bay in New Zealand recorded repeated incidences
of sexual assault on women, which marred the enthusiasm that normally greets the
festival season.5 Meanwhile, in India, the use of balloons filled with semen had
been reported to be thrown at women during Holi festivals, prompting protest from
activist groups against the act perceived as a form of sexual violence.6
In addition, indications are rife from the surveys and opinion polls conducted
across the world that there is a high prevalence of the problem of sexual assault in
music festivals. For example, in a survey conducted by BBC News,7 nearly half
of the female respondents (43%) under age 40 indicated that they had faced
unwanted sexual behaviour at a music festival. In the survey, unwelcome and
forceful dancing and verbal sexualized harassment were found to be the most
common forms of violence suffered by the female respondents. Also, in a 2019
study commissioned by BBC News on sexual violence at UK Festivals, a third of
the 485 respondents indicated that they had experienced sexual violence at
festivals within 12 months prior to the study.8 In another poll conducted by
YouGov, 22% of 1,188 festival attendees reported different forms of unwanted
sexual advances towards them.9
2 B. Fileborn et al., Sexual Harassment and Violence at Australian Music Festivals: Reporting
Practices and Experiences of Festival Attendees, Aus N Z J CrimiNol (2020), https://doi.org/10.1177/
0004865820903777; M. Lewis, The growing epidemic of sexual harassment at Aussie Music Festivals,
SBS (2019), https://www.sbs.com.au/news/the-feed/the-growing-epidemic-of-sexual-harassment-at-
aussie-music-festivals; S. Medhora, ‘I Felt Violated and Powerless’: The Impact of Sexual
Harassment at Gigs, Triple J Hack (2017), https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/what-its-
like-being-sexually-harassed-at-gigs/8166798
3 E. Izadi, The ‘Hideous’ Sexual Assault Problem at Music Festivals is Causing Major Tensions in
Europe, The WAshiNgToN PosT, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/
07/07/the-hideous-sexual-assault-problem-at-music-festivals-is-causing-major-tensions-in-europe/?
noredirect=on
4 H. Bows, How Can Sexual Assaults at Festivals be Stopped? BBC News (2019), https://www.bbc.
com/news/uk-48447964
5 See Fileborn et al., Sexual Harassment and Violence at Australian Music Festival, supra note 1.
6 TWJ Editors, In India, ‘Holi’ Continues to be Pretext for Sexual Violence, Woke J (2018), https://
wokejournal.com/2018/03/01/in-india-holi-continues-to-be-pretext-for-sexual-violence-2/
7 BBC News, ‘Shocking’ Level of Sexual Harassment at Music Festivals (2018), https://www.bbc.
com/news/entertainment-arts-44518892
8 Supra note 3.
9 O. Petter, Two-thirds of Women Concerned About Sexual Harassment at Festivals, Study Finds,
iNdePeNdeNT (2018), https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/festivals-sexual-harassment-women-
concern-study-durham-university-a8499106.html

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