I grew up going to Reggae ("Sex Assault Rumor Worries Reggae Organizers," July 31 blog item). As a Mendo local, Reggae was what we looked forward to every summer, and as I and the festival grew, I would hear of an increasing number of sexual assaults occurring. I began to feel frustrated that I should fear for my safety at what used to feel like home to me.
Reggae on the River morphs into Reggae Rising, and my crew and I continue to join the yearly campout. As I head back to my camp late one evening, we get stopped at the entrance and are told that no one is allowed to enter due to an "attempted rape." The next day, no announcement is made about the incident.
This year I volunteered on Sunday at Reggae on the River. As soon as I arrive a friend informs me that there had been a rape the night before in Cooks camp. Throughout the day no one onstage mentioned it, and most attendees are most likely still unaware.
Reggae on the River is now being moved back to French's Camp, the original site and a much larger space. The Mateel needs to acknowledge that sexual assault is a problem every year. They should make participants aware that violence of any kind will not be tolerated, and we the patrons should demand a safer, more respectful atmosphere for women, so that "one love positive vibrations" really can exist.
When the festival keeps quiet about incidents of sexual violence, they give the message that sexual violence is condoned. When the safety of attendees becomes a priority of the festival, we the patrons become empowered to look out and speak up, and Reggae on the River will become a better show.
Reggae Against Rape, 2013.
Natalie Engber, Eureka