Girls Against will be celebrating two years of tackling gig groping later this year and a lot has changed since we last spoke: “We’ve stretched all across the UK, even globally, and most importantly we’ve tried our best to help victims of sexual assault at gigs.” The girls’ growth in popularity has opened up new opportunities for the campaign, stamping their name firmly wherever they go. It’s no longer a group of girls with big ideas… they’ve quickly become the ambassadors for the anti-assault movement and a formidable name within the music industry.
The girls’ progress has been aided by working with SecuriGroup to look at implementing assault training for security companies and venues. However, getting everyone to comply has been an upward struggle: “We’re in the process of establishing a document to show other companies in the hope they too implement similar training. This is a very difficult task for us. Companies are often hesitant to do so as it can be time-consuming and costly.” The girls admit that it’s a steep learning curve as they’re not “clued up on training”, but they are not taking it lightly: “This is something we think is crucial to the campaign, so we are working very hard to do this.”
Being so reliant on people taking notice of the campaign, has the girls’ clever use of marketing, campaigning and social media really made an impact on the UK gig scene? Considerably. Following the start of the campaign, numerous artists big and small have been monitoring their audiences and keeping an eye out for assault. They’re only getting additional support as the movement grows: “With bands and artists themselves, many are more aware of the problem and don’t hesitate to speak about it to protect their fans.” However, the same spirit can’t be said about the venues: “Venues are different, as it is a matter of whether the staff are fully aware of the issue and protecting their customers.”
A growing feature of the campaign is the Girls Against helpline. The concept is simple: helping those who’ve been involved with sexual assault to overcome it. Bearing in mind these girls have zero counselling experience, it’s a monumental task that needs to be handled with caution and care: “If someone speaks to us about an assault, we firstly thank them for their bravery and send our apologies that this has happened – it’s so important to initially reassure them and let them know that we are here to support them. Following this, we ask how they are coping and if they need help. Then we ask whether they’ve reported it or if they’ve ever considered doing so. There is absolutely no obligation if they don’t want to and if it’s just support they are after, we are here for that. Finally, if they do not seem to be coping well we can give them other sources of advice to seek such as Victim Support if they need further help as obviously we aren’t qualified professionals so cannot fully give them what they may need. Our priority is always, as I say, their safety and wellbeing and we try to emphasise this in every way we can.”
Like the victims, the girls often find the reports very traumatic: “It can be difficult for us to read such horrific stories, [but] we try our best not to be affected. However, when approaching how to deal with them we find it’s very important not to be over-professional or robotic, as sometimes all the victims want is just an anonymous person to talk to.”
Sexual assault can lead to serious psychological issues short- and long-term. As the majority of the girls who run the campaign have either encountered or been a victim of sexual assault themselves, they know all too well the feelings associated. Anna, one of the leading Girls Against members, explains how an assault kindled a fire for change: “It happened to me at one of my first gigs. Looking back, at the time I brushed it off but it angers me to think about it as I was so young and naive at what had happened. We take these emotions and use them as fuel to only fight harder as it is the root of why the campaign began.”
The progress Girls Against have made is inspiring. They’re taking the fight to the predators within the music scene, but there’s still a long way to go. The good news is these girls don’t show signs of letting up anytime soon.
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