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“All things considered, I’d say that there would probably be as many or more rapes in any city of that size.”
You’ll likely have heard of Woodstock – the iconic festival of the ’69 that opposed the violence of the Vietnam War with peace, love, and music. But you probably didn’t know that they held two more editions of Woodstock, one in 1994 and one in 1999.
That is, unless you’ve watched the new Netflix documentary Trainwreck: Woodstock 99. It landed on the streaming platform earlier this month and has been firmly cemented on Netflix’s “most watched” nav bar ever since.
Trigger warning: discusses themes of rape and sexual assault.
Spanning three episodes, the documentary interviews staff, performers, and festival-goers alike – even presenters and journalists who covered the festival – to get a feel for just how disastrous the event actually turned out to be (not to mention, far from the original peace, love and anti-war iteration).
To give you an insight: festival-goers drank and washed in water contaminated with feces for the entire weekend, food and drink prices were inflated to as much as 10x the going rate as temperatures soared to near 40 degrees, and several acts actively encouraged acts of anger and destruction which resulted in sound equipment being ripped down and smashed, stalls being looted, and the festival site being burnt down on the final night.
But worse than that, the documentary touches on the multiple claims of rape and sexual assault over the course of the weekend that viewers are saying the show severely underplayed.
Watching the doc, it appears that basic safety precautions were not put into place before the weekend. Security staff were outnumbered and undertrained, and event organisers admit on camera that they didn’t have the means to stop immoral and illegal behaviour from taking place.
Just weeks after the festival, women started to come forward reporting their assaults. The Washington Post published a report from one staff member, David Schneider, who said he witnessed the assault of at least five women.
While the producers do touch on these claims, several fans have taken to social media to call the festival – and documentary – out for not doing enough for the victims.
One particularly harrowing scene shows a production crew member recalling trying to get a moving vehicle out of the crowd of festival-goers watching Fatboy Slim DJ. As he approached the van, he saw an unconscious woman being raped in the back.
Throughout the series, women are heckled and groped on camera, yet the documentary presents event promoter John Scher as appearing to swerve responsibility and pin the blame on them.
“There were a lot of women who voluntarily had their tops off. Then you get into a mosh pit and you crowd surf. Could somebody have touched their breasts? Yes, I’m sure they did. What could I have done about it? I’m not sure I could have done anything,” he shrugs.
“Woodstock was like a small city, you know? All things considered, I’d say that there would probably be as many or more rapes in any sized city of that… but it wasn’t anything that gained enough momentum so that it caused any on-site issues, other than, of course, the women it happened to.”
The documentary has original ’69 Woodstock co-creator Michael Lang stuck sticking to a similar line, maintaining that the crew did all they could to maintain the safety of the public.
But understandably, viewers aren’t happy and are calling for more to be done for the victims. Another, named Joshuã, added: “Finally watched the #Woodstock99 doc, the organisers just casually brushing over the numerous sexual assaults, many caught on camera, is f**king insane.”
But understandably, viewers aren’t happy and are calling for more to be done for the victims. One named Joshuã said: “Finally watched the #Woodstock99 doc, the organisers just casually brushing over the numerous sexual assaults, many caught on camera, is f**king insane.”
Some called out the documentary for waiting to mention the rapes until the last ten minutes or so of the show, calling it “sloppy, irresponsible journalism.” Others expressed their sorrow for the victims and attendees, noting that they likely suffered mental health problems such as PTSD in the years following the event.
One Twitter user, Failed Myers-Briggs, has accused the producers of featuring naked people (including minors) without their consent. “Many have asked (notably one anon minor who said they were drugged & SA, to have their images removed or blurred. They cannot because the footage does not belong to them, and does not count as child nudity because it’s a documentary. Adults and minors are now drugged and naked on film, potentially before or after SA, forever.”
In 2022, more needs to be done to protect sexual assault and rape victims. The fact that the show aired, despite none of the organisers taking any accountability, is not okay. Victims must be listened to and anyone responsible for creating situations like Woodstock 99 – a breeding ground for immoral behaviour and a “no rules” mentality – should be held accountable.
If you yourself or anyone you know has experienced rape or sexual assault, know this: you are not alone. If you’d like to talk to someone and are aged 16+, call Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999 or chat on their website.