As we discussed in an article last month, there is a serious and unaddressed problem of sexual assault, that is escalating at British music festivals. In a recent report on the issue, Broadly highlighted: “There were three sexual offenses reported at Glastonbury in 2015, and two in 2014. Two men were arrested for raping a woman at Reading Festival in 2015, and there was also a rape at the festival in 2009. A male nurse was recently convicted for assaulting two unconscious women in the medical tent at Wilderness in Oxfordshire in 2013. A 16-year-old boy was convicted after attacking a 12-year-old girl at Secret Garden Party in 2010. In the same year, two women told police they were raped at Latitude in Suffolk.”
We can assume this is just the tip of the iceberg, considering 85% of all serious sexual offences aren't reported to the police. With that considered, it does not send out a positive or encouraging message that it has now been reported that a convicted sex offender has had his curfew lifted by a judge in court so he can attend Glastonbury this year.Twenty-one year old Harry Webb was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman who had fallen asleep at his home after a night out. He avoided prison, but was handed a 12-month suspended sentence and a three month 8pm to 6am curfew by Judge Peter Blair QC. However, when Webb's lawyer explained that the defendant had already booked and paid for a “family outing” at the music festival, his curfew was lifted from June 21 to June 27.The story was reported by Gal Dem, where Hanna Dokal writes: “The 8pm-6am curfew is surely to teach and punish Webb, who has ruined someone’s life both physically and psychologically. The festival was clearly something of importance to him, which is why that would have been the very thing to withhold from him. How else does a punishment work?”It’s yet more evidence of the dangerous double standard in how we talk about and perceive sexual assault. A government survey in 2015 found that more than 25% of the general public believe if a woman has been drinking, then she is partially responsible if she is sexually assaulted. In comparison, if the accused acted under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it’s often used as an attempt to justify their actions. Webb claimed to have been intoxicated at the time, but pleaded guilty and is to be put on the sex offender’s register. Considering how rare it is for someone to be taken to court, and then actually convicted of sexual assault in the first place (only 5.7% of reported rape cases end in a conviction for the perpetrator), to undermine that by bending the rules so he can slosh around in his wellies at Worthy Farm basically turns his sentence into a face-value statement. It turns his conviction into a joke, and says that as a society we consider his desire to attend a music festival as more important than the lifelong physical and psychological damage of the woman he assaulted, and the safety of women at the event.The woman he assaulted, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told The Sun: “I don't know what the judge was thinking of but clearly it wasn't me… What Harry Webb did has changed my life. But he's just had a slap across the wrist and been allowed to live his life as normal.”Sexual assault is already huge problem at music festivals, period. The fact that we’re not even willing to keep out convicted attackers during their curfew period sends a gross message of indifference in regards to the welfare of women, tells rapists at large that they are above the law, and takes the weight out of Webb’s sentence so it becomes absolutely meaningless.You can follow Emma on Twitter.