Sexual consent campaign targets festival goers

It's up to rapists to stop rape. That’s the message being spread at music festivals and other events around the territory this summer.

It’s up to rapists to stop rape.

That’s the message being spread at music festivals and other events around the territory this summer by Les EssentiElles, a non-profit organization based in Whitehorse representing the interests of French-speaking women in the Yukon.

Natasha Harvey, the group’s project co-ordinator, said it’s hard to measure the impact of their consent campaign – called “Are you asking for it?” – but the message hasn’t changed over the years.

“We want to change people’s attitudes and behaviours towards relationships between men and women,” she said.

“Rather than having these ideas of men being in these dominant positions where they can impose sex, we want to change that around for people to think more about equality within their relationships, and that people have their right and option to say no.”

Now in its fourth consecutive year, the campaign will travel to the Atlin Arts and Music Festival this weekend and to the Dawson City Music Festival next weekend.

At these events, members of the organization will invite festival-goers to take part in a variety of interactive activities, such as quizzes, meant to stimulate discussion on sexual assault.

A new initiative this year includes putting people in a bystander scenario in which they must choose how to react.

Harvey said it’s important to get people to reflect on these potential situations.

“For example, if you see your friend going off with a guy, do you do something?” she said.

“Often, girls will be told to watch out for each other, but we tell guys to watch out for their friends, too, and to say something if they see someone taking advantage of another person.”

The organization, along with the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, works closely with the RCMP and their Specialized Response Unit to help prevent sexual assaults at these popular summer events.

In 2010, a 22-year-old Whitehorse resident was arrested for allegedly raping a woman during the Dawson City Music Festival and reports of women having their drinks drugged at the same event have surfaced in previous years.

Jenna Roebuck, the executive director of the Dawson City Music Festival, said her organization is committed to offering a safe and positive festival experience for both pass holders and members of the community.

“We have experienced firsthand the positive impact of the ‘Yes Makes Sex Hot – Get Consent’ campaign on our festival and believe that this positive message and important dialogue contributed to another incident-free weekend in 2013,” she said.

“Consistent, ongoing messaging of this sort – clearly communicating that a healthy, safe, sex-positive culture is infinitely better that one of violence – is what will bring healthy relationships and safe communities.”

High-profile band Staind was in the spotlight last year for stopping a Kansas City show midway after a band member witnessed a woman being molested by men in the audience.

The issue isn’t reserved to fans, however, as Australian singer Iggy Azalea revealed she quit crowd surfing because she was being sexually assaulted by her own audience.

Harvey said volunteers in Atlin and Dawson will be going into the crowd and handing out resources – but it’s not their policy to give women tips for protecting themselves.

“Our policy is to say that it’s up to men to stop rape,” she said.

“We don’t want to put responsibility on women to prevent their rape. If a rape does occur (society typically) will question and examine what a woman did to protect herself and if it’s judged she didn’t protect herself, she gets the blame. That’s victim blaming and the responsibility needs to be placed on the person committing the act of violence.”

As part of the campaign, Les EssentiElles will also organize a draw with prizes from Adult Temptations.

People can enter the draw at their booth by giving their best “consent line.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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