Warning: This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering to some readers.
“One of them put their hands on my waist. I presumed it was an accident ‘cause everyone touches everyone at gigs, so I brushed them off because I wasn’t okay with it. It kept happening though, and he kept trying to put his hands in my tights. It made me feel so uncomfortable, I had nowhere to go because I was up against the barrier. Every time I tried to push him away he would just press his whole body up against me into the barrier. Eventually the crowd shifted and they weren’t behind me any more, but it made me feel so powerless and I didn’t know what to do.”
When 17-year-old Hannah Camilleri’s experience at a Peace gig in Glasgow in September was shared online, it quickly drew the attention of the band’s frontman, Harry Koisser. “If you think this is OK,” he wrote on Twitter, “please I beg you do not come.” His words echoed those of Drenge earlier this year, sharing a fan’s similar report with the caption “Hey douchebags. This makes me want to stop playing gigs.” But it wasn’t just the bands’ responses that struck a chord, it was other fans.
“We’ve received a lot of stories from people being groped at gigs,” says Anna, who along with Hannah, plus other friends Ava, Bea and Anni, have formed girlsagainst, a campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault and groping at gigs. They’ve been inviting fans to share their experiences online (anonymously, if they so wish), and contacted bands to speak out in support of the campaign. “We want to open up a discussion between fans and their favourite bands about it.”
“It made me feel so powerless, I didn’t know what to do.”
— Hannah Camilleri
That discussion is well underway. In addition to highlighting the problem of sexual assault at gigs, they’re engaging the artists at whose shows it happens: “[heartbroken emoji] that girls going to gigs might not feel safe,” wrote Spector. “This is awesome and super important, I’ve been groped when jumping in the crowd and we gotta speak up and educate,” said Kate Nash. Swim Deep frontman Austin Williams wrote “It’s great to see a bunch of you taking these horrid matters into your own hands and raising awareness. Power to you!”
Highlight the problem, get fans – and bands – to speak out about it. Is there anyone they’re really hoping will join in for the cause?
“Catfish and the Bottlemen,” says Anna. “From personal experience, the crowd at their gig was so unpleasant I had to leave my place at the front and it completely ruined my night. We’d love support from them, as we know for a fact groping occurs at their gigs.
“Many people we’ve heard from have told us that after their experiences, they’ve been too scared to see the same band again, or even go to another concert again. Again, speaking personally, the thought of going to another Catfish gig is quite daunting.”