Ad-Rock's Plea For Women's Safety Meets Wide Approval

Women's advocates, others praise Beastie Boys rapper for taking a stand.

Beastie Boy Ad-Rock's recent call for musicians to do more to protect women's safety at concerts received widespread approval Friday (Sept. 10).

"If people in bands are willing to stand up and say, 'We think this is a terrible thing, we want women to be safe at our concerts and we support a violence-free environment,' that's a wonderful thing," said Harriet Lessel, director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, an advocacy, education and research group.

During Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, Ad-Rock (born Adam Horovitz) told musicians that they need to take action in light of the sexual assaults alleged to have taken place at the Woodstock '99 festival. State police are investigating eight assaults said to have occurred during the July 23–25 concert in Rome, N.Y.

"We can talk to the promoters and make sure that they're doing something about the safety of all the girls and the women who come to our shows," the rapper said. His comments came after the band accepted the Best Hip-Hop Video award for "Intergalactic"

(RealAudio excerpt). His words brought a solemn hush over the crowd at New York's Metropolitan Opera House.

Ad-Rock advised that performers also should ensure concert security staffers are educated about what sexual assault means and know how to handle it.

"The sentiment is right on the money," said Paul Wertheimer, head of Chicago's Crowd Management Strategies consulting firm. "Artists have a lot of power and say over audiences. And the promoters have a major influence on the environment they create, along with venue operators and security."

But one Woodstock '99 veteran questioned whether safety can be ensured at concerts as big as that one.

"You have 200,000 people, how are you going to legitimately tell if there was victimization of young females?" asked Angela Petty, a Rome city council member who volunteered at a medical tent during the festival.

The Beastie Boys — a politically outspoken punk-rap group who were instrumental in organizing the massive Tibetan Freedom concerts over the past four years — have not yet planned any efforts to follow-up on the remarks, according to Steve Martin of the band's publicity firm, Nasty Little Man.

"They're setting a tone, a stage, if you will, for change," Lessel said. "Even if it's only symbolic, that's wonderful."

Woodstock co-promoters John Scher, Michael Lang and Ossie Kilkenny issued a statement commending Ad-Rock.

"The reality is that sexual assaults have become such an overwhelming problem in our society that they are now a very frightening reality at concerts and other social gatherings," the statement read. "We stand ready to work with any other producers, artists and other industry leaders to ensure that it is universally understood that violence is not acceptable and will not be tolerated at our concerts or anywhere else."

Backstage at the awards, R&B singer Mary J. Blige said she was touched that a man brought up the issue.

But Lessel said, "It should be men who say it, because women say it all the time."