NWT Pride says it’s more prepared than ever to address any reports of sexual assault should they arise during this year’s festival in Yellowknife.
This comes after at least four separate incidents were reported to police and staff during Folk on the Rocks two weekends ago.
The fifth annual NWT Pride festival kicks off on August 4 with Queerlesque at the Raven.
The weekend will also feature educational workshops, a concert and barbeque at Somba K’e Civic Plaza and a music festival at the Folk on the Rocks site.
Iman Kassam, a board member with NWT Pride, told Moose FM recent reports of sexual assault in the city have hit close to home for her.
“I saw one of them and heard about three [sexual assaults at Folk],” she said. “Five of my queer female friends had been assaulted at Folk and those are just the friends I have and the women that I know.
“It really hit me and shocked me, especially after talking with all these women in my life.”
Following Folk, Kassam says Pride board members came together to discuss ways of making this year’s festival safer than ever. She told us the first step to making a sexual assault victim feel safe is to listen to them.
“If someone comes to you and tells you they were assaulted, first and foremost believe them,” she said. “Never question them. You have to know that violence can happen anywhere.”
Kassam says significant efforts have been made to increase signage for ‘safe spots’ at the Folk on the Rocks site along Long Lake.
Volunteers and emcees will also receive training on how to be more visible during the festival and how to deal with a sexual assault complaint should it arise.
“We’re going to have signs that flat out say NWT Pride is a safer space. That means no racism, no discrimination, no violence and anyone breaching this will be asked to leave the festival.”
While Kassam acknowledges no serious incidents have been reported during the past four festivals, she says violence can happen anywhere and that it’s important for people to know how to respond to victims.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” she said. “What happened at Folk, we don’t want that ever happening again – not at Folk, Pride or any other festival in Yellowknife.
“This is something very manageable for us to do.”