Every woman most likely has a story about how they, or a friend, were made uncomfortable by unwanted attention at a festival or concert. Sexual assault at these events is incredibly common, due to a combination of huge crowds, low security, and the consumption of drugs and alcohol.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Most occurrences of assault go unreported, due to associated shame, self-blame, and the bystander effect, which prevents others from offering help to victims. Musicians like Brendan Ekstrom, however, have a hard time witnessing harassment without taking action.
Ekstrom, the guitarist from the band Circa Survive, has never walked offstage in the twenty years that he has been performing live – that is, until he spotted a man harassing a woman during a show in St. Louis on July 21.
Ekstrom became so distracted by the man’s behavior that he stopped playing and walked off the stage to do something about it.
The crowd, along with the rest of the band, were very confused by Ekstrom’s actions, which he explained the next day in a Twitter thread.
“For almost a whole song I watched a guy stand a row behind a girl flirting and then trying to kiss her. It was hard to tell what was really happening. At times she seemed ok with his advances, but after the second time of watching her push his face and hands away and try to turn back to watch the show, I asked the security guard to go check on them. He couldn’t see what I was pointing to and it was still happening. I left the stage and walked straight for them, my mind an emotional blur. Security followed me,” the thread reads.
Ekstrom then explained how the man seemed “dumbfounded” when he showed up, as if nothing was wrong. Security took over from there, so Ekstrom is unaware of what happened to these people, or what sort of relationship they had with each other prior to the concert.
They could have just met, or they could have been dating. To Ekstrom, these details did not matter because what he saw made him uncomfortable either way.
“What I saw from stage was disturbing to me, and completely removed me from the mindset that I need to be on stage. It wasn’t cute. It was alarming. I’m almost forty and flirting doesn’t look like that. Maybe It’s that I have a daughter or that I’m older,” tweeted Ekstrom. “I still don’t feel great about how I handled this situation.”
If you read the replies fans left on this thread, it is overwhelmingly clear that no one thinks Ekstrom was wrong for stepping off the stage. Many women thanked him for protecting the woman at his concert, and for using his platform to raise awareness about this type of harassment.
Concerts and festivals are advertised as utopian environments, where everyone is happy and kind. The horrible truth is that sexual harassment happens at every concert in one form or another. It is time for us to stop ignoring the problem, and find a way to put an end to it.
Ekstrom had every right to be praised for what he did in St. Louis, and others should follow his example on how to react to public sexual harassment.
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