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Rape Charges Latest Blow to Woodstock '99

by Jenny Eliscu
July 30, 1999

The Woodstock house-of-cards continues to crumble as New York State Police investigate four alleged rapes

It became clear that Woodstock '99 wasn't about peace as soon as mosh pit injuries began to mount, but now it's becoming obvious that the three-day festival wasn't about love either. In the days since the festival, four women have filed reports of sexual assault with the New York State Police Department, adding to the impression that the only thing shared between Woodstock '99 and its 1969 namesake was the rock & roll. Three of the women who filed charges claimed to have been assaulted in the festival's camping area and the fourth said that she was raped by multiple strangers in a mosh pit during Limp Bizkit's Saturday night set, according to reports. Dr. John Connell, who acted as Associate Director of Psychiatry for Woodstock Medicine, said that his unit actually saw several patients who said they had been sexually assaulted -- cases ranging in severity from groping to penetration -- but that a number of those patients did not initially choose to file reports.

"There's a lot of it out there, I'm sure," said Connell. "If you think about what usually happens, it's like a crescendo effect. You get one or two that come out then all of a sudden you get a whole series. I would expect there will be more, and I would expect that they will be less clear as to how they can be looked at because there won't be evidence."

Police department officials, as well as crisis counselors who had treated sexual assault victims, were decidedly button-lipped about the investigations this morning, but yesterday state Police Captain John Wood told the Associated Press, "It's going to be difficult to pursue this because people have scattered to all parts of the country. But we are not going to drop our investigations. We are going to do everything we can to close them by arrest."

Connell points out the dismaying lack of crowd intervention in these publicly violent acts, but Dr. Paul Ramirez, who acted as the Director of Psychiatry, notes that audience members' failure to come to the aid of their peers isn't that surprising. "It goes back to an [established] idea in psychology," he said. "It's known that if you get hurt, the fewer people that are around, the more likely you are to be helped by someone. In crowds, people will tend to think that someone else will help."

"The whole notion of a community and sharing and helping and pulling everyone together, it gets lost in some of the lack of respect that people had for other people," Connell said, comparing the festival to the original Woodstock.

On a more pragmatic note, though, Ramirez commented: "Throwing psychology aside for a minute, in a crowd this size, there are going to be a certain number of assholes. There are going to be a certain number of people who are like that, whether or not they're at a concert. And, here, they were kind of given a license to go wild."

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