Woodstock News

Associated Press

Woodstock Rape Reports Investigated

ROME, N.Y. (AP) - State police are investigating allegations of four rapes at the Woodstock '99 festival last weekend, although they concede that arresting anyone may be difficult.

Two of the rapes allegedly occurred in the festival's camping area. Another purportedly took place in the crowd near the main stage as the group Limp Bizkit played its set.

``It's going to be difficult to pursue this because people have scattered to all parts of the country,'' state police Capt. John Wood, whose troop is investigating the assaults, said today.

The women who said they were raped were from Virginia, Ohio, Buffalo and Pittsburgh and were all in their 20s, Wood said.

Wood said the Ohio woman reported the incident immediately to state police, telling them she had been assaulted in the campground. However, the woman was so intoxicated on alcohol or drugs that she could not even tell police how many men were involved, he said.

``The woman from Pittsburgh told us she body surfed herself into the mosh pit while Limp Bizkit was playing and was fondled by two men and then raped by one of them in the mosh pit, and then body surfed out,'' Wood said.

``Due to the congestion of the crowd, she felt that if she yelled for help or fought, she feared she was going to be beaten,'' a state police investigation report said.

Crisis intervention workers said they witnessed many more sexual assaults, some taking place in the mosh pit - the crowded area in front of the stage where concertgoers dance and thrash into each other.

Calls to festival spokeswoman Hayley Sumner seeking comment were not immediately returned today.

Even before the reports of rapes surfaced, the three-day festival, meant to evoke the 1969 Woodstock and its ``peace and music'' theme, ended badly.

The weekend's final act, Red Hot Chili Peppers, was performing before what was left of the 225,000 music fans when a mob began to set fire to 12 tractor-trailers, a small bus and several portable toilets.

Bottles were hurled at police and vendor booths destroyed before the site was brought under control early Monday. Five people, including two state troopers, were injured, and seven people were arrested.

In a story in the Washington Post, David Schneider, a rehabilitation counselor from Jessup, Md., who was working as a volunteer at Woodstock, said he saw women being pulled into the pit and having their clothes removed, before being assaulted and raped by men in the crowd.

``They were pushed in against their will and really raped. From my vantage point, it looked like initially there was a struggle, and after that there were other people holding them down,'' Schneider told the Post. ``It seemed like most of the crowd around was cheering them on.''

Schneider said the density of the crowd prevented security guards or others from intervening in the assaults.

Sandy Lattimore, emergency services director of the Rome office of the American Red Cross, said she had treated multiple victims of sexual assaults that had taken place in the mosh pit. Rosemary Vennero, crisis service director of the YWCA of Mohawk Valley, said her organization's rape crisis center had counseled four sexual assault victims.

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