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Creating Safe Spaces: Zaria’s Story from Summer Smash

Creating Safe Spaces Zaria's Story from Summer Smash
Photo Courtesy: Zaria Smith

By: Taylor G. Hartman

When Zaria and her friend arrived at the music festival, Summer Smash 2024, the excitement in the air was palpable. The duo, eager to see Big Sean perform, made their way to the stage, choosing a spot on the outskirts of the crowd to enjoy the show. What started as a thrilling evening quickly turned into a harrowing experience that Zaria will never forget.

As they watched the performance, Zaria and her friend noticed an altercation between a couple and a young man nearby. At the time, Zaria didn’t realize the significance of this encounter. Fifteen minutes later, the same young man reached out and inappropriately touched Zaria, cupping both of her buttocks. Shocked and at a loss for words, Zaria turned around and could only manage to say, “What the heck.” She immediately informed her friend, who then moved to stand behind her in a protective gesture.

The relief was short-lived. The man continued his predatory behavior, this time touching only one of Zaria’s buttocks. Fueled by a mix of fear and anger, Zaria turned around and swung at him, her instincts taking over in an attempt to defend herself. She yelled at him to stop, and she and her friend quickly left the scene.

“In that moment, I felt completely violated and very uncomfortable,” Zaria recounted, her voice still carrying the weight of the incident. “I felt like if I did not make a stop to it, it was not gonna stop him because he touched two other girls. I would not want any female, male and ultimately anyone to ever feel uncomfortable in a place of joy and new experiences.”

Zaria’s story is a powerful reminder of the pervasive issue of inappropriate behavior, even in places meant for celebration and enjoyment. Her brave decision to confront her harasser and speak out about her experience underscores the importance of standing up against such behavior. It also highlights the need for safer environments where everyone can feel secure and respected.

Sexual harassment at concerts is not a new phenomenon. Many people experience this type of behavior but are often afraid to speak out due to fear of retaliation or not being taken seriously. Concert venues and event organizers must do more to create a safe environment for attendees. Policies against harassment should be clearly communicated, and there should be mechanisms in place to report incidents discreetly and effectively.

As the music industry and event organizers strive to create safer spaces, Zaria’s story serves as both a cautionary tale and a beacon of resilience. Her courage in the face of violation and her determination to ensure no one else feels the same discomfort is a call to action for us all. It’s a testament to the strength found in speaking out and the collective responsibility to foster an atmosphere of safety and respect.

“No one should ever have to endure what I did,” Zaria urges. “Girls have to stand together and make sure our spaces of joy and celebration remain safe for everyone. Speak out, stand up, and support one another. 

Zaria’s experience highlights the need for ongoing conversations about consent, boundaries, and respect in social settings. It prompts us to reflect on how we can contribute to creating environments where harassment is not tolerated and where survivors feel empowered to come forward.

It’s important to recognize that harassment and assault can happen anywhere, even in seemingly festive and public places. By amplifying voices like Zaria’s and advocating for systemic change, we can work towards a future where everyone can enjoy events and gatherings without fear of harassment or assault.

Zaria’s journey from concert chaos to empowerment is a testament to the strength and resilience of survivors everywhere. Her story challenges us to confront uncomfortable truths and inspires us to take meaningful action towards a safer and more inclusive society.

Zaria’s stand for safety at Summer Smash reminds us that each of us has a role to play in creating a world where everyone can live free from fear and harassment. Let’s listen to survivors, support their voices, and work together to build a future where respect and safety are the norm, not the exception.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline for confidential support at 1-800-656-HOPE. 

Published by: Holy Minoza

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