Creating Safe Space – Welcoming the Women’s Sanctuary

Photo by Ben Mater

Creating Safe Space – Welcoming the Women’s Sanctuary

More and more festivals are creating safe spaces for their attendees because people seem to be wanting, needing, and appreciating them. Enchanted Forest Gathering is focused on not only creating a silly, sacred, saucy, sexy atmosphere, but also a safe one. This year, there will be a Women’s Sanctuary located next to the Nectar Temple. Every woman, girl, and female-identifying person is welcome to this space and it will be available from 6pm Friday to Monday at 9am.

Why create such a space? While we wish we lived in a world where it wasn’t necessary, even in the safety of our own festival community, boundaries aren’t always respected as they should be. Our founder and lead producer, Tulku, feels the space is necessary in taking a firm stance and communicating that “the Enchanted Forest Gathering has absolute ZERO tolerance for any harm, misconduct, or disrespect when it comes to the way women are treated. If anyone is found in violation of this policy they will be ejected and blacklisted from our event for life.” Creating this space demonstrates the entire event’s commitment to acting on this policy.

You might be wondering, what exactly is a “women’s space” and maybe you’re asking yourself, “why should we care about it?” We’re here to explain what we have in store for this space and why it is so important. We think you’ll appreciate what we have planned.

Photo by Ben Mater

Photo by Ben Mater

If a break from the shenanigans is needed, this is the place to go. Sometimes the party is great, but sometimes you just need to get your head on straight and ground yourself for a moment. This is the place to make a friend; connection through healing can create some of the best foundations for friendship and community.

Information and awareness regarding sexual assault will be available. Many people, of all genders and orientations, are unsure what constitutes sexual assault because many of us have not been fully educated on sexuality and the boundaries that we need and keep for ourselves. Information is key so we can create a truly safe space and we will be here to provide that. There will be an interactive temple space in front that is open to all genders, with the private women’s space beyond an archway where you can leave messages, share your words of support for your sisters, or write down a wish or memory.

1 to 1 therapy and small group therapy will be available and provided with a licensed therapist, availability still pending. At some point in your life you will want to talk with someone about a struggle, traumatic event, difficult drug trip, bad breakup, or other life experience. It is healthy and cathartic to talk about negative experiences and everyone deserves to be heard and validated. Inquire about the days and times a therapist is available when you arrive at Enchanted Forest and find Women’s Sanctuary on the map.

Photo by Ben Mater

Photo by Ben Mater

The staff of the space will also act as liaisons between security and the medical crew if a sexual assault does occur. Sexual assault is something incredibly scary and when it happens, survivors may feel alone or intimidated. The staff of the women’s space is there to help you out when you need them because dealing with medical and security when you’re scared, worried, anxiety-ridden, confused, and trying to report something is overwhelming to say the least. We are on your team. 

We wanted to bring in the women’s space because it is an opportunity to acknowledge that sexual assault does happen at festivals and that it needs to be taken seriously and handled with care. We endeavor to educate and encourage all of our participants to learn more about how to create a culture of consent, and what their role is both at the festival and in life. There is often unacknowledged misogyny, as well harassment and assault, even within the festival community, and more people need to be talking about these issues. When testimonies about someone’s experience come out, they are often faced with doubt, criticism, and blame. We need to shift our perspectives on sexual assault and try to help support those who are brave enough to speak out.

Creating this space sparks a conversation that hopefully leads to reflection and change. As Tulku states, “this becomes a much greater conversation and the responsibility lay on all sides of this coin. It is up to men and women, it is up to the festival and the participants. We all like to talk a big game about our blessed west coast festie community. With this dire issue comes a great opportunity for us to really flex the muscle of what a community can be. A group of individuals who care and contribute to a whole that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. I believe in this wholeheartedly, I believe in us whole heartedly. This is an issue we will not let it define us, but we have an opportunity to let how we respond to it as a whole define us.”

Things don’t change if we aren’t willing to recognize and speak about them, so we’re making safety a high priority. We will help inform and educate anyone and everyone who steps up to the space because education about sex, boundaries, and consent doesn’t need to be taught to only one gender. These topics involve everyone. But it’s important to keep the interior of the space a safe haven for women in crisis or needing sanctuary. The space within the festival also signifies that we absolutely do not condone violence of any type at our events. We won’t brush it off or let it slip under the radar, so we will say it again. Violence of any kind will not be tolerated at our event.

Photo by Ben Mater

Another feature of this space is the Red Tent, a clean, well stocked and very private bathroom space for menstruating women. If you’ve ever experienced the joy of dealing with your period in stinky port-o-potties, we know you can appreciate a much cleaner and private one to help make the experience as pleasant as possible.

Finally, this is where you beautiful attendees come in. We need excited, committed, and supportive people to volunteer at this space. We are still looking for a few folks with rape crisis counseling experience, first responder experience, or experience guiding others in a therapy setting are highly encouraged to apply. Like many things at festivals, volunteers help save the day and build our community, so we need as many helping hands as we can get. If you are a counselor or therapist interested in volunteering your time, please email Kristen Rivers for the opportunity to work this space. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but realistically, it takes a village to accomplish any great idea that will help the community as a whole. Be our village and help to create a space that is invaluable to our event. Thank you.

Jazzy Cherie

A fiery yet compassionate Leo woman from the West Coast who is constantly inspired by the community bonds and innovation of festival culture. She has been sharing her written creations ever since her first festival, many of which focus on sex and sexuality, community building, and after-event reviews.

Comments: 2

  • Sparky Crowley
    Reply June 4, 2017 9:10 pm

    If “the Enchanted Forest Gathering has absolute ZERO tolerance for any harm, misconduct, or disrespect when it comes to the way women are treated. If anyone is found in violation of this policy they will be ejected and blacklisted from our event for life,” then why do you need a separate safe space within the Gathering?

    Talk about mixed messages.

    • Megan Pru
      Reply September 27, 2017 3:57 pm

      Though we can set intentions and policies, reality is never quite as perfect as we’d like it to be and the reality is that sometimes a sanctuary space is needed. Sometimes women feel they need a space where they can receive the support of sisters. We’d be more than open to a men’s space if men in the community felt it was needed and helped make it happen just like the women in our community felt it was needed and created the space. And we hope to also be expanding our offerings in the psychedelic harm reduction realm and creating more sanctuaries open to others in the future as well. The feedback we received from those who used the womens’ space this year has been overwhelmingly in support of it being there when they needed it. Thanks for sharing your outlook. We hope you can have compassion for the people who felt supported by the womens’ sanctuary without judgment about why they felt grateful to have the space available. Take care.

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