Vera Papisova Interviewed 54 Women At Coachella. They All Said They Had Been Sexually Harassed Or Assaulted

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Trigger warning: This article contains multiple stories describing sexual assault.

The annual Coachella music festival always promises a few things for my social media feeds: selfies in front of a ferris wheel, an array of photogenic and overpriced foods, and extravagant pool parties that are somehow always hosted by Shay Mitchell.

This year, thanks to an invitation from SAFE, a sexual-health app that lets you show your verified STD status, I experienced my first Coachella adventure over the course of the first weekend. And it exceeded expectations: accidental sun-kissed naps on the lawn, forgetting to think about what I looked like while I was dancing, the mile-long zombie march through the desert from the designated “entrance” to the actual entrance (bring cash and take a pedicab), and, as one friend described it, “running into people you didn’t even know you knew.” The lineup was incredible, the weather was milder than usual (so I’m told), and of course there was the much-discussed Beychella—which I can confirm was life-changing.

Despite all of that, this year’s Coachella experience was also full of moments I never saw on Instagram: being repeatedly violated by strangers. In the three days I was at Coachella, I only spent a total of 10 hours at the actual festival, where I watched numerous performances and interviewed festivalgoers about their experience with sexual assault and harassment for Teen Vogue. During the 10 hours I was reporting on this story, I was groped 22 times.

One guy followed me across the field to the Mojave stage, where I was meeting a friend to see FIDLAR. When my friend left to see another band, I stayed behind, and this guy came up behind me and whispered, “You’re a goddess” and then rubbed his hands on my hips and butt. I knew it was the guy who followed me over earlier because I recognized his Pablo merch. This is why I usually wear a backpack in concert settings — it forces distance between the stranger behind me and my body.

On Saturday, I was front row at the Outdoor Theatre, leaning against the metal grate to take an epic photo of David Byrne to send to my dad. Someone behind me grabbed my butt with both hands. I didn’t see who it was, and I felt so uncomfortable that I gave up my front row spot and moved to the back of the crowd where I would have more space behind me. I never got the picture.

Of the 54 young women who spoke to Teen Vogue for this piece during the weekend-long event, all of them had a story of sexual assault or harassment that occurred this year at Coachella. Many of these accounts reveal patterns of predatory behavior harassers exhibited throughout the festival, and many of the reports I collected sound nearly exactly the same. Here are some of their stories, condensed for clarity.

“Of course sexual harassment happens here,” said Ana, 19. “It happens to us at all concerts. At Coachella it is so many people that men will get away with touching you, and they think we don’t notice. It happened to me many times already, and I notice every time.”

“It never goes further than a touch on my butt or my back, but it’s not an OK place to be touched,” said June, 20. “Would you do that to a coworker? Or another guy? Then don’t do that to me. This is my third day, and it’s probably happened to me 40 times this weekend.”

“In a really big crowd, you want to have a good time, and you want to dance,” said Phoebe, 20, “It’s just really uncomfortable to feel someone right behind you, touching you or rubbing you. It happened to me a lot at Post Malone.”

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