GUIDE TO CREATING SAFER SPACE
The following document is about dealing with and preventing discrimination and (sexual) violence. Even if we don’t discuss specific incidents, memories and feelings about experiences can be triggered. If you notice that you are not feeling well while reading, pause and take your time before reading further. If you notice something in this text that bothers you, or you feel is wrong, contact us, we are always open to feedback and criticism.
Whether on public transport, your workplace or at a festival: When people meet, discriminatory behaviour occurs more often than we would like. Racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination often remain uncommented and without consequences. This leads to feelings of insecurity and fear – especially for BiPoC, FLINTA+ and LGBTQIA+. Not only is there often a lack of awareness of what constitutes right/wrong behaviour, but many also feel unsure of how to address incidents when they witness something. Everyone therefore should work on developing strategies that enable them to deal with abusive/discriminatory behaviour. Through prevention, dealing with incidents and allyship we can create safer spaces, which are a benefit for all people.
We at Safe the Dance developed this guide for helping you create safer spaces. It shows why safer space work is important and what steps everyone can take to ensure that all visitors feel safe. This guide is aimed at organizers, clubs, venues, collectives and festivals, but also offer a general first insight into this important topic for anyone interested in facilitating change.
Safer spaces have to do with awareness, to be aware means, firstly, to be attentive or to sensitive to problems that you yourself might not experience. Safer spaces are about supporting each other and creating a space in which everyone can feel comfortable, and no assaults or discriminatory behaviour is tolerated. Each person defines their own boundaries and when they are being crossed. What action cause people to feel attacked, disrespected, discriminated against, hurt, belittled or overwhelmed will not be questioned. What feels like a harmless little thing for you can unfortunately already mean for others that they feel unsafe or unhappy. If you are uncertain whether your behaviour is okay, we recommend: When in doubt, it’s better to ask once too much than too little for consent!
Individual boundaries are to respected: No always means no! And even more importantly: Only yes means yes!
Power of definition: your boundaries are yours to decide
Where assault begins is always determined by the person affected.
The perception of the affected person is not questioned – solidarity comes first.
Some people may be wondering why we need safer spaces at all. Many think that their club, organizations or event is already safe, e.g. because there are no reports of any incidents. Of course, this may be because there really are no incidents. Or it may be because those affected don’t dare to report them. If we look at some statistics, it is unlikely nothing has ever happened in your space specifically:
In the period 2008 – 2019, 69,881 crimes against sexual self-determination were reported to the police in Germany. (Statista)
“According to EU surveys, one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, and one in two women has faced one or more forms of sexual harassment. In Germany, in another study, 43% of women and 12% of men surveyed said they had been sexually harassed or assaulted.”(1)
“Racist crimes fall into the category of so-called ‘hate crime’ – as do anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and antiziganist offenses, each of which are recorded separately. In total, authorities recorded more than 8,500 such hate crimes in 2019.”(2)
“According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, there were at least 576 politically motivated crimes based on sexual orientation in 2019, including 151 violent crimes.”(3)
With all these numbers, it can be strongly assumed that the number of unreported cases is significantly higher in each case. Even if nothing has ever been reported at your club, festival, or event, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that it hasn’t happened or will happen. We can never guarantee that assaults and discrimination will not happen, but you can support those affected when something has happened and show that you care about the safety of everyone. The positive effect: you set an example and attract more people who support this policy and attitude; people who do not support this policy will hopefully be deterred.
The term “safe space” is often used. However, we believe that there is no such thing as a place that is 100% safe. Even if all precautions are taken, no one can rule out the possibility that incidents will occur or that those affected will be triggered and retraumatized. Therefore, we are using the term “Safer Spaces” instead to indicate that it always remains, a process to keep your place or organisation safe.
- Discuss what you want your club, event or organization to stand for.
What kind of atmosphere do you want to create?
What are your goals?
- What measures are you already taking?
What do you intend to implement in the future?
How many incidents have been reported in the last year?
What has staff been able to observe?
What impact do you want your policies to have on marginalized or structurally disadvantaged people (e.g. LGBTQIA+, BiPOC, people with disabilities, etc.) to promote their participation?
- Is your core audience diverse? If no: What might be the reason for the exclusion of certain groups and people?
Do you want to appeal to a diverse audience (e.g. through booking, presentation and wording on social media and website)?
Is the space safe for FLINTA+, BIPoC, and LGBTQIA+? Do you want to support FLINTA+, people with disabilities, and marginalized groups and provide them with a safer space (if possible) that welcomes them?
How do you want your audience to behave and interact with each other: Are you more likely to encourage or discourage dancing, fighting, drinking, flirting, listening, talking, etc.? Are condescending terms like “sweetheart” and “little girl” okay?
Don’t try to determine a person’s gender by their appearance. Don’t use pronouns without asking the person how they want to be addressed. E.G.: If a person asks for a restroom, give them general information about where all the restrooms are located, don’t decide which one is the “right” one for them.
- Is the room accessible to people with disabilities?
Can assistants enter free of charge?
Can service dogs be brought in?
Are there seats for people with limited mobility?
Are there handicapped accessible restrooms? Have you also checked with a person affected to make sure they are really accessible enough?
At festivals: Do you have a platform for good visibility for people in wheelchairs?
And most importantly, do you communicate this information?
- Is your staff diverse? Employing people from diverse backgrounds sends a message. It also makes it more likely that assaults will be reported because those affected can identify with the staff.
Are staff proactive and intervene before problems and incidents escalate? Are they open and friendly and able to de-escalate?
Are there clear instructions on how to act in case of incidents, e.g. remove perpetrators or ban them from the premises, call the police, etc.? Who among the staff makes decisions in the event of an incident, and how is communication handled internally?
Have the employees received awareness training?
Is there an awareness team and if so, how can they be recognized (e.g. T-shirt, armband, backpack…)? Or do you have specific contact persons in case of incidents? Can affected persons contact all employees? Is there a telephone number / WhatsApp (or other messenger) to report incidents?
Have the employees received further training on the topic of accessibility?
Keep at it! To create an as much as possible discrimination-free zone is an ongoing process, not something you do once, and you are done with it.
- Do you perform background checks on bands and artists for problematic behaviour (e.g. connections to racist organizations, sexist incidents, etc.)?
Do you have a policy regarding taking off t-shirts on stage?
Do you pay attention to diverse line-ups (gender & other marginalizations)?
Do you have a contract clause that states that shows can be cancelled or stopped if there is discriminatory or abusive behaviour by the band?
- Do you have any anti-violence, anti-abuse, anto-harassment, anti-discrimination policies or a code of conduct? And are these communicated (and how/where)? Is it maybe even part of your ticketing?
Do you have a list of points of contact to organizations that deal with incidents that you could give to those affected by incidents for further assistance?
Do you offer free tap water?
Do you have awareness posters or flyers that tell visitors what behavior is unacceptable and, more importantly, what kind of atmosphere you want?
Is there information on how to get home safely, e.g. help with cabs, information on night lines?
Have you contacted the police liaison officers responsible for your district and exchanged information?
- Are there any dark corners that are prone for something happening unnoticed? If so, does the staff keep an eye out for them?
Is there a retreat for victims when there has been an incident or someone needs a break from the turmoil? If not, could you create one?
Do you have gender-neutral restrooms? Or do you want to introduce them?
Are tampons and pads provided free of charge in all restrooms?
- Is there a compact version of your code of conduct? Is it also available in easy language? Is it available in several languages?
Do you have safer space posters hanging in prominent places (entrance, bar, toilets, cloakroom)?
Are there safer space flyers? Do you give them to guests at the door and point out the policy to them?
Is the policy placed centrally on your website?
Is the policy part of your ticketing (no ticket without consent)?
Do you remind your target audience about your policy on your social media channels?(Link to the website, Instagram Stories on the key points etc.) It is also a good idea to post further information on discrimination and marginalization from time to time.
At launch: how do you gain support from your community? Celebrate the launch with a party (you can also consider fundraising to cover the costs of the launch).
Communicate your policy to the outside world: do you go to the press?
How do you involve your employees in the implementation? And how do you make them aware of the new rules?
How do you deal with external employees (e.g. sound engineers of bands)? Do you send your policy in advance to bands, DJs, promoters as part of the contract? Or do you go through the policy directly with them on site?
How do you explain the policy to new guests so that they know in advance what behaviour is welcome (and what is not)?
- Think about how often you want to review your policy: Annually? Or whenever it has been in use (e.g. at festivals)?
Who will support you in the evaluation? It can be very useful to involve an external person or organisation in order to determine the current state and to identify needs for change more objectively.
Who else is involved in the evaluation: Staff (or just management), regulars, bands, representatives of marginalised groups?
Do you keep a logbook to register incidents internally?
Do you have an on-site and digital feedback box where people can anonymously report improvements and incidents? Of course, there can also be room for praise for your work – what do your guests particularly appreciate about your policy?
How do you deal with suggestions, who decides on improvements and changes?
7Ds OF BYSTANDER INTERVENTION
If you witness a situation that looks like harassment or discrimination to you, we encourage you to actively intervene. If you’re not sure how to intervene, here are seven recommendations: Whatever you do, make sure you are and stay safe!
Pay attention to the space and people around you. Learn to read body language and recognize different forms of harassment and boundary violation. Only those who can see problems can find solutions and support people
Be clear and concise. Either address the perpetrator directly and tell them abruptly that this is harassment and that they should stop. Or speak to the person involved and ask how they are doing. Offer the person your support or suggest that we leave the situation together.
Try to de-escalate the situation indirectly by creating a distraction: start a conversation with the perpetrator. Ask for the time, directions, or get creative: start singing or dancing loudly. Divert attention away from the person who needs assistance.
Ask another person to help. This can be a friend, a bartender, or another person you see. Point out the incident and ask them for assistance. If you want to involve someone farther away, address that person specifically, “Can you in the red sweater, please help?”
We can’t always intervene directly, but it is always possible to support someone after an incident. Reach out to the person affected and ask if they are okay or if there is anything you can do for them (e.g., call a friend).
If you do not feel safe or are scared to help, you can document the situation (notes, picture, video) to give the affected person the possibility to use this material later, e.g. for a report to the police. Never publish video/photo of an assault without the consent of the affected person. Let the person know that you are available to testify. Finally, if someone does not want help, respect their decision. If you feel the person’s life is in immediate danger, alert the police. Remember, however, that the police are not a good choice for everyone.
It is important to make others aware of discrimination and privilege, the more open we are about issues and incidents, the clearer the boundaries of our Safer Space will become. Ask your friends, organisers, festivals and artists what they are doing to protect marginalised groups.
BIPoC stands for Black People, Indigenous People and People of Colour. All of those terms are political self descriptions.
CIS(-gender) describes persons, who’s gender identity fully aligns with the sex assigned at birth. In a heteronormative society, being cis-gender is the norm
Trans* describes persons, who’s gender identity does not (fully) align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Some non-binary people also describe themselves as trans.
Non binary (phon. enby) persons who do not fully identify as either male or female. Some may identify as both, neither or have a different gender identity entirely.
Stealing cultural elements for personal use, commercialization, or profit; including symbols, relics, art, language, customs, etc. often without understanding, recognition, or respect for their value in the original culture.
stands for female, intersex, non-binary, trans and agender persons as well as all persons who do not identify as cisgender, heterosexual male
Inter* (short: Intersex) are persons who’s sex could not be clearly assigned at birth. (I.e. due to hormonal or anatomical discrepancies)
Inter* persons can also be cis- or transgender.
Is an acronym for the terms Lesbian, Gay, bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexual and asexual and is used as an umbrella term for descriptions of sexual orientation or gender identity. The + sign stands for further identities and/or orientations, which are not explicitly named.
Refers to the displacement of individuals or populations to the margins of society, resulting in reduced access to social participation, power, and resources.