One in five British festival goers have experienced sexual assault or harassment at an event, according to new research.
Campaigners said the figures, believed to be the first of their kind, should be a wake-up call for the industry to start treating sexual violence as seriously as other crimes at festivals.
The poll showed 22% of all Britons who have been to a festival faced some kind of unwanted sexual behaviour, rising to almost one in three of women (30%) and almost half (43%) of women under 40.
The most common forms of unwanted sexual behaviour experienced by respondents were unwelcome and forceful dancing and sexualised verbal harassment.
Eleven per cent of women had experienced sexual assault while they were conscious, compared to three per cent of men, and four per cent of women said they were sexually assaulted while unconscious or asleep, compared to two per cent of men.
Only two per cent of festival goers who were assaulted or harassed reported the incident to the police, according to the figures, suggesting the issue is significantly under-reported. Separate data released in the Crime Survey for England and Wales in February showed more than 80% of victims of sexual assault did not report it to police.
The poll, in which YouGov surveyed 1,188 festival goers for the Press Association, also revealed:
- Seventy per cent of those who experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival said the perpetrator was a stranger.
- Only 1% of women reported sexual assault or harassment to a member of festival staff, either before or after the event, although 19% of men reported their experience to staff.
- When people were asked how satisfied they were with how festivals they attended handled the issue, 45% said they did not know and 24% said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, suggesting a lack of awareness around festival policies and safeguards. A total of 22% said they were satisfied and 8% said they were dissatisfied.
Tracey Wise, founder of campaign group Safe Gigs For Women, said: "We have struggled to find anyone with any definite statistics on this before now.
"It gives us something to show to festival organisers so we can say 'you need to take this on board'."
Jen Calleja, a co-director of the Good Night Out Campaign, called the research "shocking but not surprising", saying it "helps prove what we already know through anecdotal evidence".
"We know that the vast amount of harassment and sexual assault is not reported and we know this comes down to stigma, fear of not being believed and a minimisation of what harassment is," she said.
February's Crime Survey statistics found one in five women had experienced some form of sexual assault since they turned 16.
Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said festivals "have a duty to make their events as safe and secure and enjoyable" as possible, but that some responsibility also lies with festival goers to report problems.
"People shouldn't feel that they need to tolerate the type of behaviour [at festivals] that they wouldn't tolerate in the street," he said, adding that raising awareness around the importance of consent and bystander intervention was paramount.”