A new survey released by the Conseil des Montréalaises, or Montreal Women's Council, found that over 50 per cent of women who attend festivals report being sexually harassed.
Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they'd been sexually harassed. Most were young women who say they were inappropriately touched or verbally abused. Some 37 per cent of women say they were sexually assaulted.
"A lot of them did not tell anyone. That is what really is alarming," said Dorothy Alexandre, a member of the council.
The most common forms of harassment reported included being followed by groups of men, being kissed without consent, and unwanted touching.
The organization surveyed 976 women earlier this year. Women with disabilities, visible minorities, and members of the LBGTQ community were included among those who responded.
2 main recommendations
Alexandre said promoters in Quebec are already aware of the need to make concerts and festivals safe for women, but said more could be done.
She makes two key recommendations:
- Focus on training staff to be more aware of the experience of women at festivals.
- Create easily-identified safe zones for women who feel unsafe.
"What we want to focus on is training. If you train your volunteers on site, they'll be able to see who can be in difficulty," said Alexandre.
"They are doing a good job so far. The reason that we're here is we want to help them do more."
She pointed to some positive examples, such as at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, where a large percentage of security staff are women and a woman is assigned to each team that patrols.
A good 1st step, says advocate
The creation of the study was inspired by Melanie Doucet, a woman who spoke out about having her drink drugged at last year's Osheaga.
She said she went public after not being able to get a satisfactory answer from the event's promoter.
She started a petition and the council contacted her before launching its study.
"I think this is actually a very good first step towards improving the safety for women and … all festival attendees. This is something that's been an issue all over the country," said Doucet.
Montreal mayor reviewing results
Kira Lynn Ferderber, who used to work with Ottawa's Project Soundcheck, says training staff has a direct impact on reducing sexual harassment. The organization, founded in 2015, helps festivals and large events prevent sexual violence.
"It's giving people concrete skills to safely and effectively intervene if they see something that isn't right," said Ferderber.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says he is committed to creating a safer environment and is studying the recommendations.