Sexual Misconduct Awareness, Education and Prevention

Sexual misconduct, while uncommon and unconscionable, can happen at Burning Man. 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 sexual assault support team if appropriate. If sexualt assault is confirmed, ESD also provides transportation to and from Reno for a forensic examination with the Reno Sexual Assault Response Team and meets at a designated facility for the exam. 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 go through rigorous training, know which 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, sexual misconduct, including 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 and community-based survivor advocates. They are close partners with the medical team and the Rangers. They are experts at navigating the crisis response process, including cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault, and they work with participants providing advice, support, and resource contacts in their home town if requested.

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.

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

Burning Man does not provide forensic exams — also known as “rape kits” — on the playa. While we’re proud of the medical support services that are available at the event, there are several reasons it does not make sense for rape kits to be administered at the event. There are only four sites in the entire state of Nevada that do them, the closest being in Reno.

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, 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. (The “chain of custody” is partially what’s at issue here; if you obtain the evidence on playa and then transport it to Reno, it’s more likely to become contaminated.)

To ensure the highest likelihood any evidence collected will help identify a perpetrator and secure a conviction, the survivor should travel to Reno for an exam by a Nevada Sexual Assault Response Team. 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 one’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:

Bureau of Erotic Discourse (B.E.D.)

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.

11th Principle: Consent!

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.