Sexual misconduct, while uncommon and unconscionable, can happen at the Burning Man event. Black Rock City is built by its citizens — a community that strives to live by a set of principles. And our principles of Civic Responsibility and Communal Effort suggest we all have a stake in the safety and security of our fellow Burners. We need everyone’s help to foster an educated, empowered and safe community.
Getting Help on Playa
When a suspected sexual assault is reported in Black Rock City, our Emergency Services Department (ESD) provides support to the individual, including deploying a survivor advocacy team. ESD also provides transportation to and from Reno for a forensic examination with the Reno Sexual Assault Response Team. ESD then follows up with the individual post-event with referrals to local support and counseling services.
If you witness or experience sexual misconduct on playa, know that you are not expected to handle the situation alone. Our community is supported by qualified people who can help you:
1) Black Rock Rangers. Black Rock Rangers, dressed in khaki, have radios and can quickly call for help from ESD and law enforcement. Rangers are participants who volunteer a portion of their time at Burning Man in service of the safety and well-being of the Burning Man community. They are well-trained in the processes to set in motion, and will stay with you and/or the survivor until additional help arrives. Rangers can be found at Ranger Headquarters on Esplanade and 5:45, at the Ranger Outposts at 3:00 & C and 9:00 & C, at the Man, at the Temple, and on patrol all across Black Rock City and in Gerlach.
2) Medical Station Staff (ESD). ESD medical stations are located throughout the event site, specifically: 3:00 & C, 9:00 & C, 4:30 & H, 7:30 & H, 11:00 from the Man on the open playa, and 5:15 & Esplanade. They are skilled professionals who have experience assisting in emergency health situations, including sexual assault. They will know who to call and which processes to set in motion, and they will stay with you and/or the survivor until additional help arrives.
3) Crisis Intervention Team. The ESD Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) consists of highly trained and dedicated psychiatric professionals. They are close partners with the medical team and the Rangers. They perform crisis intervention for participants experiencing psychological and emotional difficulties , and provide survivor advocacy to participants who have experienced sexual misconduct or domestic violence.They will stay with the survivor throughout the on-site investigation, and are specialists in providing compassionate care for survivors while the process takes its course.
To reach CIT on the playa, contact any Black Rock Ranger or walk in to one of the medical stations (addresses above) and let them know you want to report a sexual assault, domestic violence or mental health issue. They will contact the CIT team, who will provide a safe environment for the affected participant.
4) Survivor Advocacy Center. The Crisis Intervention Team now has a drop-in room staffed with advocates available on a drop-in basis 24/7 throughout the event. This room is located at the back of the ESD Medical Station at 5:15 and Esplanade and is a quiet space where you can have a private and confidential conversation with a trained survivor advocate. Should you wish to report the incident to law enforcement, the advocate can provide access to them as well.
What if the survivor does not want to report the incident?
Some sexual assault survivors prefer not to report the incident to law enforcement. It is critical to respect these wishes while also encouraging them to seek support that is appropriate for them. It is most important to listen to survivors without judgement.
Forensic exams — also known as “rape kits” — are not available on the playa. Conducting forensic exams is a highly specialized procedure. More importantly, medical and legal experts have informed us that due to location and uncontrollable factors associated with the playa environment and chain of custody, an exam done on the playa would face a high probability of being successfully challenged in a court of law — essentially making it useless in aiding a conviction. To ensure the highest likelihood any evidence collected will help identify a perpetrator and secure a conviction, experts recommend survivor travel to Reno for an exam by the Sexual Assault Response Team used by most of Northern Nevada. The Burning Man organization will offer to transport survivors to and from Reno at no cost, greatly decreasing the examination time and facilitating a speedier reconnection with friends and family.
Safety and Self-reliance
If Black Rock City citizens find themselves in an uncomfortable or threatening situation, asking for help is highly encouraged. Any bad actors in a city of more than 70,000 are far outnumbered by well-meaning Burners who are willing and able to lend a helping hand. Please support one another in speaking up if anyone’s physical well being is threatened in any way. Black Rock City is not so big or so anonymous that people will ignore a call for help.
Remember to always carry your own water bottle, drink plenty of water, and be thoughtful when accepting gifted beverages. We’re a gifting society, but that doesn’t absolve us from practicing self-reliance, awareness, and safe hydration.
We all need to make every effort to educate one another and to speak up if we see or hear something that doesn’t look, sound or feel right. If someone doesn’t look like they’re able to take care of themselves, check in with them.
We’re counting on you to step up and be part of the beautiful community that makes Black Rock City possible. Thank you!
Off-playa Support Resources
- 24/7/365 Crisis Call Center Hotline
- (775) 784-8090 or (800) 273-8255
- SASS – Sexual Assault Support Services
- (775) 784-8090 or (775) 221-7600
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- (800) 273-8255
- Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline
- (800) 500-1556 (24/7 in English or Spanish)
Further Reading About Sexual Misconduct Awareness, Education and Prevention
Posts in the Burning Man Journal:
Consent and Sexual Harassment at Burning Man: What You Can Do to Help
By Gigi-D L’Amour
August 24, 2015
Sexual Assault Resources Available in Black Rock City
By Burning Man
August 12, 2015
Help Prevent Sexual Assault in Black Rock City
By Burning Man
August 7, 2015
Sexual Assault in Black Rock City
By Megan Miller
September 22, 2012
Burning Man Community Resources:
Consent is sexy! Visit the Bureau of Erotic Discourse to learn more about the community curriculum for creating a culture of consent in Black Rock City.
This project, which grew out of Regional Events in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, created amazingly helpful language and tools for instilling consent as a fundamental tenet of the Burning Man community.
The Zendo offers peer to peer counseling with individuals who are trained to work with overwhelming experiences. Many of their volunteers are mental health professionals, psychedelic researchers, and medical service providers. Others have training in holistic healing modalities or other relevant experience. They provide their volunteers with an on-site comprehensive training which further prepares them for offering harm reduction services.