Police say they are investigating four reports of sexual assault at the concert site; meanwhile state trooper suspended for lewd behavior. Staff Writer Teri vanHorn reports:
At least two women were raped in the mosh pit at Woodstock '99 last weekend, according to a volunteer who witnessed one assault and a rape counselor involved in assisting the victim in the other.
In each incident, which occurred on different nights of the three-day, 30th-anniversary Woodstock '99 festival, the woman was allegedly raped and assaulted by multiple men, as concert-goers around the crime cheered her assailants on.
Meanwhile, the internal-investigations office of the New York State Police in Albany announced Wednesday that the on-site trooper-supervisor was suspended without pay following accusations he urged female Woodstock attendees to pose nude for photos with police, Jamie Mills, director of public information, said. The investigation is continuing.
While New York State Police have been vague about reports of sexual-assault cases at Woodstock, officials finally confirmed Thursday (July 29) that they are investigating four alleged rapes said to have occurred during the outdoor concert held on the former Griffiss Air Force base in Rome, N.Y.
One of the alleged rapes being investigated was said to have occurred in the mosh pit during rap-rockers Limp Bizkit's performance Saturday, while the other three allegedly happened at the campground, according to Capt. John Wood of the state police in Oneida, N.Y.
Meanwhile, additional reports have surfaced through local rape-counseling centers and due to witnesses' coming forward.
David Schneider, a rehabilitation counselor who worked as a volunteer with the social-service program Family of Woodstock during the event, said he witnessed a gang rape in the mosh pit during a set by the hip-hop-influenced rock-act Korn on Friday night.
"At one point I saw this girl, a very petite girl, maybe 100 pounds, who was body-surfing above the crowd and either fell in or was pulled into a circle in the mosh pit," Schneider, 28, said Thursday. "These gentlemen, probably in the 25–32 age range, looked as though they were holding her down. They were holding her arms; you could see she was struggling."
Schneider said he could not see everything that was happening through the dense crowd of nearly 200,000 and estimated he was about 15–20 feet from where the alleged assault occurred.
"You try to judge by the crowd right around them, and no one really seemed to be too concerned about it," he said, explaining why he did not immediately report the incident. "I watched a little longer, and you clearly could see that one of the guys was pulling her pants down — her top was left on. You could see he was violating her.
"Then it looked like he passed her off to his friend next to him," he continued. "It looked like a clear gang-rape to me, where he was just passing her on to at least one other person.
"At some point, it appears she gave up struggling."
Estimating the assault lasted a few minutes, Schneider said concert-goers then came to her rescue and helped her to security. When security personnel lifted the woman over the barricade, Schneider saw that she was partially naked, which seemed to confirm to him that she had been raped.
Woodstock promoter Michael Lang was quoted in a number of reports saying he could not imagine how a rape could occur in a crowded mosh pit.
Schneider, who said he could offer police basic descriptions of two of the men, further explained that he didn't report what he saw at the time because he assumed that security was handling it, adding that there likely were hundreds of other witnesses. He said he also saw three or four other women being assaulted in the mosh pit.
Becky Fike, acting director of the crisis center at Family of Woodstock, said she had dealt with many Woodstock '99 sexual-assault cases but few victims wanted to file official reports. "It's the same reasons as in the society beyond Woodstock," she said. "Peer pressure, family pressure, some of the women ... had been involved in drugs and alcohol."
On Thursday, Woodstock co-promoter John Scher ducked questions about whether he felt widespread nudity shown on the concert's video screens fostered an anything-goes atmosphere at the site.
"This was just an observation of what was going on," he said.
Late the following night or early Sunday morning, another rape allegedly occurred in the mosh pit, according to Utica, N.Y., YWCA Rape Crisis director Rosemary Vennero.
Vennero said a woman in her early 20s was raped and assaulted by "more than one" man. "She was in the crowd and she was assaulted," said Vennero, whose organization later counseled the victim. "People came to her rescue, and my understanding is that she was then body-surfed to security." The victim was treated at a local hospital and released.
Vennero said her staff counseled a total of four rape and sexual-assault victims who were Woodstock concert-goers. The staff has fielded multiple other calls regarding sexual assault at Woodstock.
It could not be confirmed at press time whether the alleged mosh-pit rape being investigated by police is the same case that was described by Vennero.
A 24-year-old Pittsburgh woman told police she was raped Saturday night while crowd-surfing during a set by Limp Bizkit, Wood said. The woman told police she was pulled into the mosh pit, raped and assaulted, he added.
The three other assaults that allegedly occurred in the camping area involve a 32-year-old Ohio woman, who told police she was raped at the campground Saturday night, according to an Associated Press report. A 20-year-old New York woman also reportedly said she was assaulted that night, while another 20-year-old woman from Virginia told troopers two or three men raped her in the campgrounds Sunday afternoon.
In a posting on the official Woodstock website, a father said his daughter got separated from her three girlfriends early Monday morning and was pulled into a tent by a "a clean cut college looking guy with dirty blond hair" who raped her. An investigator said Wednesday that the description of the alleged crime did not sound similar to any of the reports New York State Police are investigating.
The father wrote that he was offering a $10,000 reward for help leading to the assailant's arrest and conviction and asked that anyone with information "do the right thing" and come forward.
Allegations of sex crimes have continued to surface since the three-day fest came to its fiery end Sunday night.
Some of the New York State Police's own troopers were even accused of misconduct, when a report surfaced in a Syracuse newspaper that alleged several troopers encouraged two women to strip and then posed for pictures with the naked women. The Syracuse Post-Standard quoted an officer as saying "Show us some [breasts]," and another saying "Show me some bottom," attributing the allegations to the two women who obliged their requests.
In all, eight troopers are alleged to have been involved in sexual misconduct at the show. Schneider said he believed a female trooper witnessed the apparent rape he saw during the Korn set. Police could not be reached for comment.
The three-day concert was telecast on pay-per-view via local cable networks. Investigators will review the footage to see whether any of the incidents may have been captured on tape, officials said.
While some artists, such as Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst, encouraged rowdy behavior during shows, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Offspring frontman Dexter Holland admonished male concert-goers for their inappropriate behavior toward women in the mosh pit.
Flea (born Michael Balzary) even added to his onstage comments in a posting on the band's official website, "I just didn't like when guys would grab at the girls who had their tops off," the bassist wrote. "Guys think and look [and] fantasize about girl[s'] t-ts all day and finally the girl[s] are nice and free enough to let them flow and guys abuse the beauty of it all by groping without invitation. Some nerve."
Vennero said that in addition to the victims the YWCA dealt with, she continues to hear horror stories about sexual assaults at the festival.
"You hear people saying things like, 'When we went to sleep at night in the tent, I just heard people screaming, and they weren't screams of pleasure, they were screams of terror,' " she said. "I have to say I have to believe a lot of what I'm hearing."
A 23-year-old man who worked as a food vendor at the festival told Vennero that female workers always were accompanied by at least two men for protection, because concert-goers were trying to assault them while they were serving food. "This was happening right there," Vennero said. "They were serving you a hamburger and they were being grabbed at."
Vennero urged victims of sexual assault to reach out to their local rape-counseling centers, adding that only a small percentage of rapes are ever reported.