I Just Came To See The Band
A very personal tale of assault from the mosh pit.
Words by Marina Mitchell.
Sexual assault in mosh pits at gigs and festivals is occurring at an astounding rate. Recently, in Sweden, there were over 40 reports of sexual assault and groping at two festivals in one weekend. You probably think those numbers are crazy, and rightly so. Could you think of anything worse than being groped and assaulted while watching one of your favourite bands play?
You may be surprised to hear of how often this actually happens at gigs in Australia. In mosh pits that you’ve danced in, at festivals you’ve had the time of your life at. It happens so often that bands now, like The Smith Street Band, High Tension, Modern Baseball, Camp Cope and more are speaking out, calling for an absolute zero tolerance of this behaviour at their shows and are encouraging girls to go to the front. We hear so much about substance abuse and drunken violence in relation to music festivals but we rarely hear about the people leaving mosh pits with jarring memories that will haunt them whenever they hear that band again. We don’t hear about the guilt and shame a lot of punters carry out with their dead phone batteries and sunburnt skin and how these feelings don’t leave for weeks and months and years.
Over my years as a live music addict, I know as well as you do that there is nothing better than the natural movement of the mosh-pit. Of slamming bodies against bodies, jumping, screaming lyrics with strangers and spilled beer. I used to thrive in the violence of the front row and always came out smiling even when I broke my nose that one time. I loved the fact that you and all your friends would often lose each other and come back at the end of the night with hilarious stories of people you’ve met or shoulders you’ve been on.
But I stopped loving mosh pits to an extent when I was sexually assaulted in one nearly two years ago.
I learnt quickly during that time that there are a fraction of people attending live music shows that aren’t there to see the band. Which, as you could imagine, was heartbreaking to come to terms with as suddenly, the safe haven to lose my mind in was a dangerous place with painful memories.
I have waited so long to open up about this. It’s always seemed less painful to not tell anyone and just try and forget. I was and still am worried that people won't take me seriously. Surely, it's impossible to get assaulted in such a public place. Surely, someone would have noticed and helped you.
Surely, you could have escaped? Well, you're right. You make sense to me.
You make sense to every person this has happened to which is why the guilt lands on our shoulders. We don't want to be told to move to the back, to stop going to rock shows in general, to not accidentally lose our friends ever again, so we don't tell anyone. We know it’s not right, that something is definitely wrong, but it’s easier to stay quiet.
Plus at the time, I had been drinking. It shouldn’t be an issue, but apparently it is. If you’ve been drinking, you apparently become responsible for anything that happens to you. What a load of bullshit. How can you be responsible for a guy nearly twice your height and weight choosing to overpower you? You can’t. It wouldn’t matter what I was wearing, how I was dancing, or how much I’d had to drink. He made the decision to do what he did. And as hard as I’ve fought in my mind about this, I now realise that I wasn’t the perpetrator, he was and what he did was wrong.
That night I left the mosh pit promising I’d never put myself in that situation again. But I realise now I that I didn’t put myself in a situation at all. I caught the train to city that afternoon, had some beers in the sun, talked shit with my friends and walked into that mosh pit as I had countless times. It could have been anyone.
But I’m okay. Live music is still my drug of choice and now I write my own songs about things like this which has helped exponentially. I got to play a show recently supporting Rachel Maria Cox from Sad Grrrls Club who ensures all venues are safe spaces for people to feel comfortable while partaking in the joy that is live music. Not only for the audience, but for the artist too.
These days, I still tend to linger towards the back of the moshpit, but I will get back to where I was in the front one day. I refuse to let the actions of some ruin my good mosh-pit memories. Experience has shown me that there are so many legends attending live music shows, but instances like my own are occurring and even if you don't see it, you need to be aware of it. It is so important to speak out about this so that this behaviour can end and these people can get out of our safe spaces and know they won't be tolerated. We can’t keep letting these things happen to people who are just there to see the band. And we can’t keep letting victims think that it was their fault and that they don’t belong in a mosh pit.
Everyone belongs in a mosh pit. It’s why we always go back for more.