Rape Counselor Blames Woodstock Sexual Assaults On Party Atmosphere

Claims rape, other sex crimes were reported despite police assurances 'environment is safe.'

Despite police assurances that the "environment for women is safe" at

Woodstock '99, multiple sex crimes, including rape, were reported to

the local rape crisis center, said a sexual-assault counselor who

blamed the behavior on the three-day music festival's party atmosphere.

"You've got all the potential there — you've got the drugs, you've got

the alcohol, you've got the violence," said Deb Galotti, a

legal-advocate supervisor at the Utica, N.Y., YWCA who served as a

counselor at the YWCA's Rape Crisis Center. Utica is near Rome, N.Y.,

where Woodstock '99 took place.

"You are going to be vulnerable when you do drugs and alcohol, and I

think there are people out there who are going to prey on that,"

Galotti said.

Nudity was rampant in the Woodstock crowd and repeatedly celebrated

from the stage.

Though she would not cite exact numbers, Galotti said the Rape Crisis

Center received reports of "some" sex-crime cases, including rape and

sexual abuse, during the three-day concert. She added that many sex

crimes are never reported, especially in cases where alcohol and drugs

are involved, because victims feel guilty or are afraid they will be

blamed.

The closest hospital to the festival site, Rome Memorial Hospital,

would not say whether any sex-crime victims were treated there. The

majority of patients over the Woodstock weekend had heat-related

problems, stomach ailments or minor injuries, hospital spokesperson

Cassie Evans Winter said.

New York State Police spokesperson Glenn Miner said Wednesday that police were investigating fewer than 10 sexual assault cases. No charges have been filed, he said.

Miner also said the state police have launched an internal investigation into reports that some of their own officers at the festival urged fans to strip and posed for pictures with naked or topless women. "These are allegations right now, and we have nothing to say," Miner said.

Major James Parmley, on-site commander for the state police, declared

Saturday afternoon that "the environment for women is safe" and said

protecting females from sexual abuse was one of his primary concerns.

The officer said one criminal complaint of sexual assault had been

filed since the festival began, but acknowledged that many women

informally complained of groping and other unwanted attention.

The Rome newspaper, the Observer-Dispatch, quoted State Police

Capt. Harry Bullock on Monday as saying, "We heard rumors of sexual

assaults, but no one has filed any charges. I watched it all on

closed-circuit TV, and there were naked women parading around like it

was all right."

Galotti said some people think nudity changes the rules of acceptable

behavior, and that contributed to the sex crimes at Woodstock. "Does

that mean that because they were exposing themselves, they deserve to

be touched and deserve to be prodded?" she said. "Absolutely not."

While many performers encouraged females in the audience to go topless,

a few warned from the stage that nudity should not be taken as a

license for sexual abuse.

Punksters the Offspring, who performed Friday, and funk-rockers the Red

Hot Chili Peppers, who closed the festival Sunday, responded to

behavior in the mosh pit.

"I see a lot of girls passing overhead and they're getting really

f---in' groped," said singer Dexter Holland of the Offspring, whose set

included the single "Why Don't You Get a Job? (

href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Offspring,_The/Why_Dont_You_Get_A_Job.ram">RealAudio

excerpt). "They ought to be able to do that without getting

molested. So if you're a guy and you have a girl passing over you, do

me a favor and give her a f---in' break. And if you're a girl and you

have a guy passing over you, do me a favor and grab him by the balls."

Similar scoldings came two nights later, during the Red Hot Chili

Peppers' set. After the Los Angeles group performed its hit "Under the

Bridge" (

href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Red_Hot_Chili_Peppers/Under_The_Bridge.ram">RealAudio

excerpt), bassist Flea — who performed nude — said, "Hey, you

know, just because a girl out there wants to feel free and take her

shirt off doesn't mean a bunch of ya have to go grabbin' her t-ts and

stuff.

"They're her t-ts and not yours," Flea (born Michael Balzary)

continued. "You gotta leave those t-ts alone. Those t-ts are a girl's

private property and they're a beautiful thing, so you've gotta respect

'em."

"If you weren't so grabby, they might all take their shirts off,"

frontman Anthony Kiedis added. "Be nice to the t-ts."

Those watching the concert on pay-per-view television saw that the

Chili Peppers' reprimands didn't have the desired effect; in fact, they

had the opposite effect. Immediately afterward, the camera panned to a

shot of several concert-goers squeezing and fondling the breasts of a

topless woman sitting on a man's shoulders.

Thomas Flowers, leader of the rock group Oleander, who performed

Friday, said while nudity shouldn't be taken as a license for sexually

abusive behavior, responsibility is also an issue. "You need to respect

everyone, but anyone who gets on someone's shoulders and exposes their

body and has put themselves in that situation, has to take some

responsibility for themselves," Flowers said Tuesday.

"I could have done without the guys molesting the girls," actress Rosie Perez, star of such films as "It Could Happen to You" and Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," said backstage. "If a girl wants to take off their top, they should be free to do so without the threat of having those hands come up and grab ya" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

Depictions of such behavior on television — even on pay-per-view — tread a slippery line regarding obscenity or indecency, according to Ben Golant, who works for the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., and specializes in enforcing regulations against obscenity and indecency.

"It varies from community to community," Golant said, adding that he

had not heard of any complaints to the FCC about the pay-per-view

telecast. "What may be indecent or obscene to Amarillo, Texas, may not

be to New York City or downtown Los Angeles. Sex is a very subjective

thing. What offends one person may be par for the course for another."