Music Festivals: A Hunting Ground for Sexual Predators?
For many young people, April is the last bit of gloominess before the break in the clouds. Local colleges and universities begin wrapping up their lecture schedules, and some students begin to think about setting up their study sessions for final exams. Others look for that one last opportunity to let go of their stress and have a fun, carefree weekend. As fate would have it, two of the largest music festivals in California – Coachella and Stagecoach – occur annually in April, giving those students the outlet they seek.
While most of the 90,000 or so people that attended Coachella were there to enjoy the music, have a few drinks, and party with friends and strangers, there were also those who had other ideas about how to spend their weekend. Those ideas were summed up rather bluntly by one man’s t-shirt, which was emblazoned with the words, “EAT SLEEP RAPE REPEAT.” 1
A photo of that man’s t-shirt (along with his cheerful expression) found its way into the social media world, and was soon picked up by many mainstream media outlets. The slogan on the shirt has been decried as emblematic of the growing problem of sexual assaults that frequently occur at music festivals, where alcohol and other inhibition-lowering drugs are easy to find.
An Underreported Crime
A look at the crime statistics from the 2015 Coachella and Stagecoach festivals reveals a total of 226 arrests over Coachella’s two weekends 2, and 157 at Stagecoach. 3 The primary offenses were alcohol or drug-related crimes, such as drunk in public and underage drinking. Between the two festivals, only Stagecoach had an arrest for a sex crime, as one person was arrested for suspicion of sexual battery.
With those low numbers, how can it be true that sex crimes can be said to be frequent at music festivals? The truth is that crime statistics that are released immediately following these events are often deceiving when it comes to sex crimes. First, sex crimes are a broad category of offenses. They can take the form of harassment and unwanted touching or more serious offenses such as rape or sexual battery. Many of the victims of the less serious crimes never report them, and many of the victims of more serious attacks do not come forward until weeks or months later, if they ever come forward at all.
Second, some victims of sexual crimes often feel that admitting an attack is shameful, and likely to bring their own character and choices into question. Others cannot fully remember the incident, either because of drugs they voluntarily took, or because of drugs that they were given without their knowledge. As a consequence, many victims fail to come forward either out of guilt for having been attacked, or because they do not remember that they were attacked.
Crimes of Opportunity
Many sex crimes are crimes of opportunity, which means they are performed by a perpetrator who sees that the circumstances are such that he or she believes that the crime will not be discovered. Music festivals present those kinds of opportunities because of the easy access to alcohol and other drugs, and because security can only watch so many people at a time. With nearly 100,000 people attending a music festival such as Coachella, policing against sex crimes is a difficult task for even the best of security forces.
Many concert promoters also find themselves torn between wanting a safe environment for their guests and wanting to keep security’s visible presence to a minimum so the party atmosphere of the concert is not spoiled. Other promoters lack the financial resources to hire well-trained, skilled security personnel. Whatever the reason, the reduced presence of security means that some people will use the opportunity to try to get away with a sex crime.
Sex Crimes are Severely Punished in California
The punishment for sex crimes can be severe, including fines and time in county jail for misdemeanors, or multiple years in a state prison for felony convictions. If you are convicted a sex crime in California, you will also be required to register for the rest of your life as a sex offender under California Penal Code section 290. This registration requirement is a punishment that can last far longer than any imprisonment, and can have negative consequences on where you live and your ability to get a job after you have served your sentence.
Contact the Sex Crime Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you find yourself accused of a sex crime that occurred at a music festival, you should notface the criminal justice system alone. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully helping clients facing these sex crime charges for over 30 years. We know that these charges can have a devastating effect on the rest of your life and your career, and we are dedicated to working tirelessly on your behalf to provide you with the best defense possible.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich sex crimes attorney available near you, no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. [Lizzie Dearden, “Coachella 2015: Man’s ‘Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat’ T-shirt sparks outrage,” The Independent, April 13, 2015, available at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/festivals/coachella-2015-mans-eat-sleep-rape-repeat-tshirt-sparks-outrage-10173215.html. Incidentally, the shirt is a play on the title of electronic dance musician Fatboy Slim’s song, “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat.”]↩
2. [Mariecar Mendoza, “Coachella 2015: Arrests increase during second weekend, but police say festival still a success,” The San Bernardino County Sun, April 22, 2015, available at http://www.sbsun.com/events/20150422/coachella-2015-arrests-increase-during-second-weekend-but-police-say-festival-still-a-success.]↩
3. [Colin Atagi, “Stagecoach arrests surpass each Coachella weekend,” The Desert Sun, April 28, 2015, available at http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/crime_courts/2015/04/28/stagecoach-arrests-alcohol–indio/26523883/.]↩