Before Girls Against was founded a year ago, I saw sexual assault at gigs as a distressing yet unavoidable part of going to see bands. I was so used to being groped that I didn’t even think about reporting it or confronting the perpetrators and instead tried to laugh it off and cope with how uncomfortable it made me feel for the rest of the night. I made sure not to wear skirts at gigs because I thought, and was warned, that if I did someone would put their hand up it. I never considered that this problem was part of a wider issue in society.
Girls Against is a campaign that aims to end sexual assault and harassment at gigs and was founded by four teenage girls. After hearing what they had to say about the issue, I realised that I shouldn’t have to put up with being assaulted at gigs. I realised that if I wanted to wear a skirt to a gig, I should be able to feel comfortable in doing so. I realised that I shouldn’t have been embarrassed about someone else making me feel uncomfortable and that I was victim-blaming myself to justify the awful behaviour of others.
It’s so easy to dismiss the actions of perpetrators, which I used to do, due to the confined nature of the crowds. Is that person deliberately touching you or is it just because they’re being pushed up against you? This is one of the reasons why Girls Against is so important. Not only does it give victims of sexual assault at gigs a safe place to go to talk about it in confidence, but it also spreads awareness of an issue which has been ignored for far too long.
— Girls Against (@girlsagainst) March 19, 2016
The Girls Against campaign now has over 80 international representatives who are all trying to stop sexual assault at gigs. I became a rep for Girls Against last April and since then I have been active in its promotion in the Liverpool and Manchester areas. We help to promote the campaign by contacting venues, bands and the press. I am honoured to be a part of this campaign as its existence alone has made me feel so much safer at gigs and I hope through being a rep myself that I can give others similar reassurance.
All of the reps have their own reasons for joining the campaign, a lot of them rooted in their own experiences of sexual assault at gigs, and it is a really supportive and understanding team to be a part of. Andrew, who is 19 and lives in Washington DC, told me that he applied to be a rep for the campaign because the idea “that people my age or younger could be groped, harassed and assaulted at their gig experiences made me sick to my stomach.”
Ania, who’s 17-years-old from Warsaw, said that she joined the campaign because she “couldn’t wrap my head around how such a happy place could bring such a negative experience.” It’s amazing to be involved with a group of such like-minded people who are all passionate about stopping sexual assault and creating a better environment at gigs and Ellen, who is 19 and from Cambridge, said that this was the reason she became a rep: “I had finally found a campaign which held all the same values I did.”
During the six months that the other reps and I have been part of Girls Against, we’ve had some amazing achievements and experiences. With representatives spread across all major UK cities and various places in Europe and America, we are able to spread the word through simple tasks such as putting up posters and talking to people about the campaign. I have found the latter to be a really effective way to raise awareness. When I talk to people at gigs about the campaign, they often tell me they’ve had similar experiences to mine and are able to find comfort in the campaign and want to support it.
— Jared Place (@Placeyyy) October 22, 2016
Just as often though, I talk to people who are shocked to find out that sexual assault takes place at gigs. They are usually equally as eager to support the campaign as those who know this is a problem – proof that Girls Against is a campaign that can make a difference.
One year on from being an idea in a group chat Girls Against now has support from many bands such as Peace, Slaves, Wolf Alice and their fans. Its Twitter account has over 14,000 followers and its logo was featured on the big screens at Reading and Leeds Festivals and V Festival this summer. We’ve also interviewed bands like Best Coast, Black Honey and Chvrches and, through social media, gained the backing of artists like Johnny Marr and The Courteeners.
— jack (@jack_whiting_) October 7, 2016
Anna, a 17-year-old from Glasgow, is one of the inspirational girls who founded Girls Against, “Starting GA alongside my best friends was most definitely the best spur of the moment decision I’ve ever made,” she said. “While yes, it was unplanned, unorganised and we had no idea it would blow up quite to the extent that it did, it’s been unbelievably worth it. Without this campaign, I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people: namely the GA Reps.”
According to Anna, much of Girls Against’s success recently has been down to their network of reps. “The reps have worked tirelessly in local venues to gain their support, and they’ve gained the support of many big name bands along the way! Without them, we couldn’t have expanded globally, and – I may sound extremely soppy here – they genuinely mean so much to us.”
It’s definitely not only the reps that put in a great deal of effort for the campaign, though. The founders balance managing this campaign, one that has expanded so much more than they ever thought it would, with both schoolwork and a social life. “Girls Against is a campaign which involves so much hard work due to the nature of it, and indeed as a founder I can speak for us all when I say it can get incredibly stressful,” Anna told me. “But, with the reps, we can work together to fight for our cause and make the biggest impact we can on the music industry.”