Since when has the Style section become the place for reports on violent crimes? I was horrified to see the article regarding the sexual assaults that took place at Woodstock '99 located in the Style section ["Woodstock's Bitter Ending," July 29].
Rape is a very serious violent crime. The fact that these crimes took place at a concert does not justify treating the story as entertainment. The event at which a sexual assault occurs does not make it any less of a crime.
By placing this story in your Style section, a section usually devoted to light-hearted issues and entertainment, you have belittled the seriousness of the issue. Please be more responsible in the future in making the distinction between entertainment and crime.
-- Joann C. Davis
In response to the reports of rapes at the Woodstock festival, promoter Michael Lang was quoted as saying "I don't think it's conceivable . . . you can barely move in a mosh pit."
The Woodstock festival took place in 1999, but from the tone of the July 29 article in the "Style" section, and the promoters' reactions to the brutal gang rapes that have been reported, it seems that they, along with the article's author, Alona Wartofsky, had an acid flashback to the year 1969.
Even in 1969, some of the more outrageous statements in the article would not have been socially acceptable. But today, these attitudes are as outdated as Harvey Wallbangers, and a lot more dangerous.
A statement like "these girls . . . ought to look at the way they dress when they go to these things," however well-intended, recalls the time when "look what she was wearing -- she was asking for it" was an acceptable defense to rape.
The defensive responses from event promoter Lang and his partner John Scher, suggesting that such gang rapes would have been impossible, are reminiscent of the Italian judge who ruled that a rape could not have taken place because the survivor had been wearing blue-jeans.
Your article noted that "[d]ozens of women voluntarily removed their shirts and bras during the festival, both in and outside the mosh pit," but that "none of the women [Mr. Schneider, a volunteer] saw assaulted had taken off her own top." Was the author implying that a young woman who, like hundreds of young women around her, took her shirt off, would have thus given these thugs permission to rape or beat her?
According to reports, a Woodstock employee told concert staff at noon Saturday about two rapes she had witnessed. She says the staff person replied: "We know about that -- we have already had 10 or 12 reports of rapes this morning, but we just can't let the police in." Why? Reportedly because of widespread drug sales on the grounds.
-- Kim A. Gandy
The writer is executive vice
president of the National
Organization for Women.
Your shocking article on allegations of sexual assaults at Woodstock '99 illustrates society's continuing propensity to blame victims for the crimes they suffer. Concert security forces not only failed to intervene on behalf of victims, but concert organizers professed the too-common sentiments that victims' actions warrant and invite rape as well. Doubting the plausibility of sexual assault and eyewitness accounts, concert promoters John Scher and Michael Lang deny any responsibility saying, "199,000 kids . . . came and had a great weekend."
Is mob entertainment now more important than the suffering, humiliation and trauma of crime victims? Your paper's coverage included sensationalized, irrelevant accounts of women voluntarily removing clothing during the concert. These women deserve what they get? Stop the music!
We wonder: Is the barbarism of documented felonious sexual assault, accompanied by cheering accomplices in a mosh pit, really appropriate for the Style section of your paper -- rather than your front page, where hard news coverage of the burning and looting at the same event was run? What kind of style does it show to diminish rape victims? Shame on everybody involved.
-- Susan Herman
The writer is executive director
of the National Center
for Victims of Crime.