Our Music My Body educates on harassment
Posted: by The Editor
Content Warning: This article contains discussion of sexual assault and harassment.
In a world that can often feel dark and frightening, sometimes it’s easy to forget we have flashlights that can help us navigate through the void. One of these sources of light is Our Music My Body. OMMB is a campaign in coalition with Chicago based organizations Between Friends and Rape Victims Advocates (RVA). Their main goal is to raise awareness about sexual assault and harassment within the music industry.
Co-leaders, Matthew Walsh and Maggie Arthur, have dedicated themselves to advocating and creating conversation around this important topic. Both working for anti-violence agencies within the city, they decided to take these discussions and apply them to their everyday lives.
Growing up around punk music and being involved in the DIY scene, they saw that while there were some artists and fans pushing for an end to sexual harrasment, it wasn’t happening on a larger scale. “We were watching our friends, and ourselves experiencing harm and no one was doing anything about it,” Walsh said. They took matters into their own hands and created OMMB, putting their passions into play and bridging an important gap.
A 2017 study created by OMMB, which surveyed 500 music fans in Chicago, found that, “47% of respondents reported receiving unsolicited comments about their body, 44% were groped, and 45% were aggressively hit without their consent at shows.”
While not all assault is physical and victims may not always feel safe to share their experiences, sometimes harassment can seem like an invisible problem. However, simple statistics like these show that this is something to be more aware of. An issue bigger than itself, this is where groups like OMMB step in.
The campaign is about to reach their fourth summer of music festivals, and are currently working with four local venues to stop harassment within the scene. While harassment and assault can take many different shapes, the campaign offers various different resources to help combat the problem. Not only do they do their best to table festivals and shows to educate fans, they also offer certified advocates to assist those in need, many who have gone through 40+ hours of training.
While helping artists and fans is important, having trained venue staff is another key to unlocking safer and more inclusive spaces. This is why the campaign helps create anti-harassment policies. Walsh says that they have seen positive improvement since working with multiple venues. By implementing strict policies and displaying them for all to see, there is a clear and direct message sent to attendees, and staff know what to look out for.
Not only do groups working with OMMB reach out to the campaign with questions, fans have shared that they feel protected by OMMB’s presence.
“We’ve had fans that have said that we are the only reason they came out to the show that night, that they felt comfortable doing that,” Walsh said. “We are seeing and hearing that people are ready and more engaged to have fun because they feel like we are there and that the venue cares.”
While the organization is slowly branching into working with out-of-state affiliates, they are still primarily Chicago based. However, if you’re not in Chicago and want to make a change, their toolkit is yet another resource that offers a plethora of information and guidelines that can easily be accessed exercised within your own local community.
Some easy ways you can start making a difference is by offering support to victims, letting them know that you believe them, and not placing blame or asking unnecessary questions. Saying, “I believe you”, “It’s not your fault” or “you have options.” While not everyone is trained or prepared to help victims, it is easy to offer empathy.
Make it clear what harassment looks like and what actions will not be tolerated. Creating a strict zero tolerance policy shows that perpetrators will not get away with their actions, and will detour unsanctioned activity. Sharing this policy openly and thoroughly makes it clear to everyone what is and isn’t acceptable. Collaborating with local crisis agencies to create connections and clear pathways of knowledge and help is another step to take. While the problem is bigger than itself, everyone is capable of taking small steps towards change.
In the toolkit you can find ways to build inclusive spaces, exercise anti-harassment guidelines and more. To become involved with the campaign or to get additional information you can visit their website: http://ourmusicmybody.tumblr.com. Remember that being part of a community means working together to foster growth and change. Even the smallest steps offer forward movement.
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Emily Kitchin | @deathnap4cutie
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