Bleats

Pill Testing At Groovin’ The Moo Found Deadly Substances, And Nobody Died – What More Proof Do You Need?

The pill-testing trial finally went ahead at Groovin' The Moo Canberra on Sunday, and two samples had a deadly substance. That's actually the best possible outcome.

We finally had a pill testing trial at an Australian festival on the weekend. As was widely reported, Groovin’ The Moo allowed a group of harm minimisation advocates to set up a testing tent at their Canberra leg – and out of over 80 tested samples, two were found to be potentially lethal.

This is genuinely fantastic news.

What better way to prove the necessity of pill testing than to show that two or more people (depending on how many mates were sharing the tainted party treats) could potentially have died if they’d blindly taken something they’d bought in good faith?

As a result, nobody died from ingesting the substance, N-Ethylpentylone – which has been linked to mass overdoses in Europe – and as reported by Vice, authorities are now aware that it’s present in the ACT thanks to the testing trial specifically.

No death good! Poison being sold to young people bad!

There are plenty of people who still argue that pill testing shouldn’t go ahead because encourages people to think drugs are “safe”. But people are taking drugs and rolling the dice even though they know it isn’t necessarily safe – we all did Happy Healthy Harold, and the payoff of a fun high at a festival or show is enough for tens of thousands of young people to take the risk every year.

Even less sophisticated are arguments like Steve Price’s. The shock jock had a go at advocate Matt Noffs during a segment about the trial on The Project last night, yelling about how drugs are illegal (duh) and his kids don’t do drugs (sure, Jan). He was really bothered by the idea that the police knew there were punters walking into that tent with Illegal Drugs and didn’t do anything –because the concept of harm minimisation is apparently either too complex or too humane for him to grasp, and also what are cops even for if not for arresting people Steve Price doesn’t like?

If people like Price had their way the drug testing tent would actually be a hidden conveyor belt straight to jail, and anyone who died from taking a capsule full of some mystery substance deserved it for making bad choices and not being raised by Steve Price.

A pill or bag that’s confirmed to contain what you paid for can still be dangerous, of course – but it’s a hell of a lot safer than something that’s straight-up lethal.

Abstinence-only policies don’t work for sex education, and they don’t work for drug policy. People are going to do it anyway, because humans love fun stuff more than they love not doing fun stuff. People die climbing Everest all the time, but that doesn’t mean we say “No guides or oxygen tanks for you, idiots, you brought this on yourself”.

But the props don’t just go to STA-SAFE and the advocates who fought so hard for this to happen – although of course, huge amounts of credit to them for trying to drag Australia’s backward-ass drugs policy kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Props, also, to the punters who tracked down the testing tent and handed over precious scrapings of their expensive mystery dingers.

Fronting up to have your drugs tested took guts. There wasn’t necessarily adequate legal protection for people walking into that tent, one expert told the Canberra Times.

There was a police presence and security guards outside the tent, according to a separate report by the Canberra Times. One of the festival promoters, who definitely deserve praise for allowing the trial to go ahead, reportedly told the Fairfax journalist to delete a picture of the cops outside the tent.

The official line, though, was a pro-minimisation-friendly agreement that the cops wouldn’t target the tent or the “health precinct” where the testing tent was located.

Every person who walked into that tent to take part in the trial contributed to a positive outcome, and at least two of them may have saved their own lives.

It would have been scary – but it was also responsible, and smart. And whatever your stance on recreational drug use is, people being smarter about it is a good thing.

And that goes double for the people who make the rules.

Friendly Reminder That You Can Feel Free To Step In If You See Someone Being Groped At A Festival, And Also Feel Free To Not Grope People, Ever

A Teen Vogue reporter talked to 54 women at Coachella and all of them had been harassed. That’s... too much harassment, maybe?

This story discusses harassment and assault.

During an afternoon main stage set at Sydney’s Laneway Festival 2017, a guy walked past me as I was talking to my friends. In one smooth movement, barely breaking his stride, he leaned in, right on my ear, murmured “Your arse is gorgeous”, and slipped a hand under my left butt cheek, cupping it over my (thick, relaxed-fit) denim shorts and going for a squeeze so deep I felt his fingertips brush my vagina. Then he kept walking, moving sideways through the crowd.

“What the f**k,” I said flatly. Then, louder: “What the f**k, dude?”

I pointed him out to my friends. “That guy just groped me. The one in the sailor hat.” They were still just a metre or two away, moving slowly through the crowd.

My friend – who’s all of five foot two with a sheet of Disney princess blonde hair – started shouting at Captain Hands and his friends. I joined in as best I could, trying to shake off the skin-crawling sense that I could still feel his hand even though he was six feet away. Another friend, a man who was keenly aware that he was more likely to get punched in the face than either of us, backed us up.

The three of them just mocked us for standing up for ourselves, apparently not at all embarrassed, and made threatening movements at my male friend. I looked at the people around us, hoping one of them would at least tell the Captain to shut up, or even make eye contact with me and roll their eyes – but their eyes remained stoically on the band. That’s what they were there for, after all.

At the same time, up the front in the packed mosh, my younger sister and her friend were standing with elbows out and their teeth gritted in disgust and fury. They were trying to fend off a couple of dudes in their 30s who were asking repeatedly if they had boyfriends; the men resorted to grinding their crotches against them, silent violations disguised in the close crush of the crowd, after the girls gave up and ignored them, because they just wanted to see the band.

That’s what they were there for, after all.

Teen Vogue reporter Vera Papisova went to the first weekend of Coachella 2018 for 10 hours, and spoke to over 50 women, all of whom had had at least one experience of physical harassment or groping during the festival so far. Papisova herself was groped 22 times – meaning on average, she couldn’t even go half an hour without a stranger touching her body without her consent.

It’s not just the US either. That Laneway where I was groped was the same year as the festival launched an assault and harassment hotline – not a move you make if there isn’t a significant problem. (I didn’t call, because the phone reception was non-existent.) There is a huge problem, and we don’t even know the full extent of it yet.

What we do know is that the same casual, freeing anonymity that makes festival punters more comfortable with wearing bras as tops or tights as pants and dancing like nobody’s watching also makes certain people feel like they’ll be able to get away with breaking other rules.

Those people use the opportunities of a festival environment – the outfits, the relaxed atmosphere, the booze, the physical closeness of a crowd – to touch others in ways they wouldn’t get away with on the street or in the office or even in the pub. The same thing happens in the anonymous crush of public transport – someone is assaulted on Melbourne trains, trams or buses nearly every day.

I have way too many opportunities to use this GIF.

Papisova spoke to one 16-year-old who said “It’s scary, and you can’t trust the random people around you to help you.”

We’d all like to think that if we saw or heard someone being groped or harassed at a festival – anyone at all, but come on, especially a teenager – we’d do something to help.

But the presence or even open disapproval of strangers who you won’t see again for the rest of the day or ever clearly doesn’t stop harassment, especially with hit-and-run violations like what happened to me. Nobody could stop it – it was over almost before I registered it was happening. (He’d clearly had practice.)

Nobody – except for his friends.They ignored my girlfriend’s eloquent rage as she asked them “Are you proud to be friends with this guy who gropes women?” They were standing there, laughing and backing him up, and calling my male friend a “white knight fag” for, you know, telling them groping isn’t OK. 

The Captain’s friends backed him up, and nobody else called him out, so he wasn’t fazed at all by our fury and attempts to make him feel embarrassed about his actions. We were just a couple of angry feminists and a “white knight fag”. They were more pissed off at us for yelling than at him for groping me.

How many times had they watched him do this, or done it themselves? If his boys or even some random strangers told him he should be ashamed, maybe he’d feel differently. Maybe he wouldn’t do it at all.

In the seconds after someone gropes you, if you can manage to channel your shock, disgust and fury into shouting at the perpetrator(s) and drawing attention to your situation, you do it not only because you’re f**king furious but also in the hope that the people around you would join you in shaming them into apologising, or keeping them in place until security can be alerted, or at least backing you up with a “Hey, dude, that’s not OK”.

A couple of women did this at Falls 2017/2018, making a citizen’s arrest of a man who groped one of their breasts in the mosh and handing him over to security and then police.

Because, remember, it’s an actual crime.

If you know someone who thinks it’s funny to grope people, hopefully you don’t want to be friends with that person, and if you see it happen, hopefully you’ll call them out, even if it means missing a few moments of that song you’ve been looking forward to. Staying silent, eyes forward, only helps the gropey douchebags go on to grope more people.

Looking after the people next to you in the crowd is the most important factor when it comes to having a good time – and after all, that’s what you’re there for.

If this story brings up any issues for you, you can call the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Helpline on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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