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Ben je oké? Biz backs Dutch anti-harassment initiative

Concertgoers in the Netherlands are being encouraged to ask, "Are you okay?", in a bid to normalise conversations about unwanted sexual behaviour

By Jon Chapple on 10 Oct 2018

Ben Je Oke

image © Rutgers

To mark 6–12 October’s ‘national action week’ against unwanted sexual behaviour, Dutch promoters’ association VNPF, along with some of the Netherlands’ leading music venues and festivals, have thrown their support behind Ben je oké?, a new campaign taking aim at sexual harassment at night-time events.

An initiative of sexual and reproductive rights charity Rutgers, Ben je oké? (Dutch for ‘Are you okay?’) is backed by VNPF (Dutch Promoters and Festivals Association), Celebrate Safe and No Thanks!, and seeks to raise awareness of sexual harassment in a country where more than half of women and one in five men have been the victim of inappropriate sexual behaviour, according to Rutgers.

The idea behind the campaign is simple: To encourage concertgoers who witness unwanted sexual behaviour to ask the victim, “Are you okay?”. There are videos on the Ben je oké? website showing how to discuss the incident and deal with the reaction of the other person, and people are encouraged to share their stories and photos on social sites such as Instagram and Snapchat to normalise such conversations. “This way we can make it clear that it is okay to discuss inappropriate sexual behaviour,” says Rutgers director Ton Coenen.

“We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change”

Although sexual harassment is common throughout society at large, Coenen says it’s especially prevalent at concerts, festivals and nightlife events, “where flirting plays a big role, and boundaries blur”.

“These figures are unfortunately not new,” says Coenen. “We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change. A culture in which everyone realises that sexual [interaction] is only okay if you both want it.”

Other supporters of the campaign include Eurosonic Noorderslag, Welcome to the Village and venues TivoliVredenburg, Melkweg and Luxor Live, as well as several Dutch municipalities.

“It is important that we work together as venues, clubs [and] festivals […] to make going out safer by reducing unwanted sexual behaviour,” says Sandrijn Dekkers, GM of Amsterdam’s Melkweg.

 


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