Project Soundcheck (Victor Szymanski/The East)

Project Soundcheck: New Brunswick Festivals Tackle Sexual Assault

Four of New Brunswick’s music festivals have stepped up their game when it comes to preparedness. When you’ve got hundreds, if not thousands of people at your event, many of which may or may not be in an altered state of mind, it’s best to keep a sharp eye out. While New Brunswick’s festival atmosphere is notoriously friendly, organizers want to ensure that everyone is being mindful of consent.

Enter Project Soundcheck, a training program developed by the Sexual Assault Network in Ottawa for the purpose of changing the culture of festivals and large events to a culture of consent. The idea is to get people “checking in” during music festival when behaviours and situations start heading for the deep end.

The program was developed after it was found that one fourth of all sexual assault cases presented to the ER in Ottawa were perpetrated at or as a result of participation in a large event such as a festival.

Although statistics are unavailable for the number of incidents reported from festivals in New Brunswick (if they’re reported at all), organizers feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Folly Fest, Future Forest, Evolve and Freedomfest In The Field have all decided to undergo Project Soundcheck training being coordinated by the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre, sending in organizers, members of their staff, and security teams.

“Whether they’re reported or not, there are many, many cases of sexual assault ranging from unwanted touching and non-consensual photo taking to full on rape happening – not just at festivals, but at locations and events where people gather all the time,” says Freedomfest In The Field organizer Sarah McAdam.

“We’re not just looking to foster safety at festivals, we’re looking to use festivals as a springboard to create a culture of consent throughout the broader community.”

The training is being offered to anyone who wants to take it at the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Fredericton for $200 per group of up to 12 and takes 4 hours. Organizers are encouraging anyone and everyone to take it.

“The initial training being brought to New Brunswick was paid for by those three festivals, making it available here at a nominal cost to all interested. It not only gives you a way to deal with unwanted sexual contact when you observe the behavior, but it teaches a way of creating a culture that prevents that,” says McAdam.

“We’re not targeting people, but actions. We’re looking to improve the overall experience of each festival goer, which in the end takes out the victim and predator mentality and unites us as safe, happy festival attending people.”

“I’m really happy Sarah reached out to us about this,” says Paul McAllister of Folly Fest. “As a festival where one of our main focuses is to ensure everyone has a good time and feels safe, training like this is really valuable. She’s a champ for taking on the orchestration of it.”

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