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Meet the teen girls fighting sexual assault at music venues

#GirlsAgainst have started a campaign to raise awareness about harassment at concerts

Trigger warning: This article contains information about sexual assault 

If you’re a woman and you’re into live music, chances are you’ve experienced some form of harassment: some guy refusing to leave you alone in the smoking area, a group of men making gross comments, a bloke grabbing you as you walk past in the crowd, or much worse. Of course, it isn’t just women that experience sexual harassment at music venues, but all genders, and it isn’t just music venues, but everywhere. But whoever you are, and wherever you like going, the point remains: how are these harassers still getting away with it?

Enter Girls Against, five teenage girls who describe themselves as “just some intersectional feminists standing up to groping at gigs.” When 17-year-old Hannah Camilleri was harassed at a Peace gig earlier this month in Glasgow, she and her mates set up a twitter account, and it quickly garnered over 3000 followers in a handful of days, with tons of others sharing similar experiences. We spoke to Hannah about what Girls Against is all about, and what can be done to tackle this issue. 

So how did the Girls Against campaign come about?

It started when four of us went to a Peace concert. I was at the barrier at the gig and I was wearing a thin skirt that kept riding up but I didn’t think anybody would notice because there was a band playing only five metres away. This group of boys ended up behind me and one of them put their hand on my waist and every time I tried to push it away he would push his full body weight into me so I had nowhere to go, and I couldn't physically breath or escape. Eventually the crowd shifted and he wasn’t behind me.

I didn’t say anything to him at the time, and my friend was next to me and I didn’t say anything to her either. But after I texted my friend about it, she tweeted the band and it got a lot of support through twitter. We realised that we all wanted to do something together to target this, and we thought “why not now?” It quickly escalated from just handing out badges and raising awareness to a full-blown campaign.

That sounds awful! What are you hoping to achieve with the campaign?

Right now, we’re mainly prioritising raising awareness by getting follows from influential people and spreading the word so that people know that this is a big issue. We’ll be going to a lot of gigs and speaking to people about the campaign and giving out badges there. There’s also a Reclaim The Night march in a couple of weeks and we want to organise a big group of us to go there and spread the message.

We are also going to contact venues and security companies to establish a solid safety plan to protect people. Things like how to spot and deal with sexual harassment, and work on making security guards a lot more approachable. I don’t even think security guards are looking out for harassment – they’re looking for crowd-surfers and people on shoulders. But if they don’t know about it, they can’t look for it. It’s important that we keep the conversation going. Next, we'd like to move onto clubs and festivals.

Your twitter campaign gained a lot of support in a really short space of time. Why do you think it resonated with so many people?

I think it’s happened to so many more people than we thought, and they never saw it as a big deal until somebody stood their ground and said, “No. This is wrong.” Even if it’s something subtle, it’s happened to nearly all women, and other genders too.

Are there any female activists you guys look up to?

There are a couple of accounts of twitter, like Lexi (@Lexi4prez) and Blige (@THECAROLDANVERS). We also love Nicki Minaj – she’s just so cool! We like aspects of Emma Watson’s campaigns and there are aspects of Hillary Clinton that we like, although other aspects less so. We really love Laverne Cox as well. And we love Ellie Rowsell from Wolf Alice – a lot of her lyrics are really pro-feminist so we’re into that.