The popularity of music festivals in the U.S. cannot be overstated. According to Billboard, approximately 32 million people attend at least one music festival in America every year. Just a few major music festivals that take place each year include Coachella, Riot Fest, Lollapalooza, SXSW, Sasquatch!, Bonnaroo, Afropunk Fest, Pitchfork, and Mo Pop. Virginia is home to Lockn’ Festival, FloydFest, and many more local events. These festivals bring in tens or hundreds of thousands of visitors to a relatively small area. For multiple days, crowds pack in to hear a wide range of artists. People spend all day in these large crowds, and unfortunately, this has proven to be an unsafe environment. Specifically, the campaign, OurMusicMyBody recently surveyed female concertgoers and found more than 90 percent were harassed while attending a concert. This harassment ranges from inappropriate comments to sexual assault.
While harassment and sexual assault at music festivals are all too common, these events are also known to be very chaotic and can result in false accusations and mistakes in identity. If you have been wrongly charged with sexual assault in Virginia after a concert, call a Roanoke sexual assault lawyer at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico.
Defining Sexual Assault and Battery in Virginia
In Virginia, there are various forms of sexual assault and battery. Regardless of the specific offense or if the incident in question took place at a music festival or concert, it is a serious and complex legal situation that may have a lasting effect on the accused and alleged victim’s life. In some instances, being convicted means possible time in custody, having to register as a sex offender, which may affect where a person can live, what kinds of jobs someone can have, and custody of their children — not to mention the social stigma associated with being a sex offender.
Sexual assault and battery is defined under VA Code § 18.2-67.4, which alleges someone has sexually abused another individual. Sexual abuse is generally defined as an act, intended to sexually molest, arouse, or gratify another person. Typically, this involves forcibly touching someone without their consent and with a sexual motivation. Sexual battery is usually pursued as a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia; however, your specific charge could be escalated if certain aggravating factors exist.
Survey Finds Women, Trans, and LBGTQ+ Concertgoers Are Regularly Harassed
OurMusicMyBody is a collaboration between Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) and Between Friends. The purpose of the partnership is to create awareness regarding sexual harassment at concerts and festivals and to promote healthy discussions regarding consent.
In November and December 2017, OurMusicMyBody surveyed 84 men, 379 women, and 57 non-binary individuals to ask them about the harassment they experienced at concerts, which could include:
- Unsolicited body comments
- Sexual gestures
- Aggressively being “hit on”
- Being photographed or recorded without consent
- Being followed or stalked
- Verbal racially based violence
- Verbal transphobic violence
- Verbal homophobic/biphobic violence
- Being yelled at by a significant other
- Being physically harmed by a significant other
- Physical violence by someone other than a significant other
- Physical racially based violence
- Physical transphobic violence
- Physical homophobic/biphobic violence
- Coerced drinking
- Sexual assault
The outcome of the survey was alarming. Of the female fans who responded to the survey, 92 percent experienced harassment. Of the male fans who identified as LGBTQ+, 31 percent experienced both physical and non-physical harassment. Of the fans who identified as transgender, 60 percent experienced physical homophobic and/or transphobic violence.
Through the responses, OurMusicMyBody found there were 1,286 instances of harassment. In total, 47 percent of respondents received unsolicited comments about their body, 45 percent were aggressively “hit on,” and 41 percent were groped.
If You Are Sexually Harassed or Assaulted at a Festival
If you are groped, sexually assaulted, or raped at a concert or festival, steps you can take include notifying a concert or festival employee and asking for the police. You may also choose to go immediately to an emergency room where evidence can be gathered, and you can put in touch with police. Whether you would like to take these steps is up to you. Going to the police may lead to your attacker being identified, arrested, and charged. If you choose to speak with authorities, be sure to have emotional support through friends and family and contact a lawyer to protect your rights as soon as possible.
You can also contact national resources for help:
- Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE)
- LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
- Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
These resources can provide emotional support and guide you to local resources.
Defending Against Sexual Assault Accusations in VA
One of the many issues regarding sexual harassment and assault at music events is that it can be difficult to identify the offenders. A victim may not see someone who assaults them from behind. Their perception of the alleged attack may be influenced by drugs or alcohol. Also, even if a victim sees their attacker, it is easy for someone to disappear amongst the crowd. Additionally, while security personnel is usually very prevalent at music concerts and festivals, qualified law enforcement with experience handling sexual assaults may be limited. This can lead to the mishandling of important evidence and other serious violations of your rights. These issues all contribute to individuals being wrongly identified and accused of sexual assault.
If you are being investigated or have been arrested for a sexual assault that allegedly took place at a concert or festival in Virginia, contact a Roanoke sexual assault lawyer at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico right away online or at (540) 343-9349.