"The actions of these lowlife scum ruined the festival experience for the youths they targeted. I want to express how sorry I am that incidents of this nature occurred at River Sounds, and I want to apologise to any individual impacted by this appalling behaviour."
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The Festival Director for Bellingen music festival River Sounds has posted a scathing statement on social media condemning the behaviour of men responsible for the sexual harassment of underage females at the event.
In the statement, Ben Lewis reveals that "Sadly, it has come to my attention that sexual harassment incidents occurred at the event. Harassment came from men aged in their early 40s and was directed towards young females under the age of 18." Lewis then condemns the actions of those responsible stating "The actions of these lowlife scum ruined the festival experience for the youths they targeted. I want to express how sorry I am that incidents of this nature occurred at River Sounds, and I want to apologise to any individual impacted by this appalling behaviour."
Lewis continues his statement by calling on everyone to stand up against toxic attitudes and behaviour. "I also want to call out men who think it's ok to act in this way. If you think it's ok to harass anyone in society, let alone sexually harass underaged females, you are the lowest of the low. You are weak. Your behaviour has no place in society. You're not welcome at my future events. It's time to stand up against the minority scum who continue to act in this way. If you witness this shit, gather your friends and shut it down. Everyone deserves to be safe, and to have the freedom to do whatever they choose."
The full statement, which you can see below, also includes an apology to festival headliners Regurgitator who received negative feedback about a looped video which played during their set, specifically the graphic of a cartoon figure urinating. Lewis stated "This graphic was supplied to River Sounds to play during the track I Piss Alone - an amazing song which criticises toxic masculinity. The video was never designed to be looped. It was River Sounds who looped the video (not Regurgitator), and in hindsight, it was a poor choice. I apologise if this video caused offense to anyone in the audience."
The statement is accompanied by a photo of Lewis and his daughter, Eilidh, whom he revealed "thankfully had the most amazing experience at the event. Just the way it should be."
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The inaugural River Sounds festival took place in Bellingen from August 19-21 and featured a stacked lineup of Australian artists including headline sets from Regurgitator, Baker Boy and Alex the Astronaut.
Lewis's statement follows the shocking findings of an independent review into sexual harm, sexual harassment and systemic discrimination in the Australian music industry. The Raising Their Voices report, which stems from a review by MAPN Consulting spearheaded by music industry collective Temporary Working Group with support from APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA, Australia Council and Support Act, saw more than 1,600 people within the contemporary music industry contribute and uncovers high rates of sexual harassment, sexual harm and bullying. 55% of participants had experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment, including 72% of women surveyed and 39% of males surveyed, while 85% of participants who identify as an additional gender reported at least one experience of sexual harassment.
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