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Oktoberfest's History of Sexual Assault and Violence

Germany's celebrated weeks-long annual cultural festival and beer-drinking event has a dark side.

Attendance of Oktoberfest's kickoff weekend was down by roughly half this year, due presumably more to bad weather and concerns about public safety following the Munich shooting spree in July than to the festival's problem with violence and sexual assault. But even with fewer visitors, a sexual assault was still perpetrated, and ultimately stopped by Munich police, who discovered a 32-year-old man attempting to have sex with an unconscious woman on the very first day of the festival.


The celebrated weeks-long annual beer-drinking event in Munich, Germany is one of the world's most iconic global cultural festivals, with attendees numbering in the millions each year. But with all of the free-flowing lager and revelry comes a darker element.

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In previous years, the Oktoberfest organization has categorized sexual assault crimes under the much broader and much less specific umbrella of "sexual offenses," a catch-all that seemingly includes everything from public sex acts to rape.

Attempts to combat the issue began in 2003, when Sichere Wiesen für Mädchen und Frauen (Secure Fairgrounds for Girls and Women) began holding an annual tradition of hosting safety tents for women within the festival grounds. Almost a decade later, in 2011, 5,000 female attendees received neon green armbands with space to write down a hotel name and address along with an emergency contact's phone number.

In 2012, the women's safety tent became so crowded that women seeking assistance were turned away. In 2013, 6.4 million people attended Oktoberfest, where a reported 6.7 million liters of beer were consumed. There were also 759 people arrested, 449 violent assaults, and 16 sexual assaults (including two rapes)—numbers that barely changed from the year prior. Those numbers were slightly less than the 17 reported sexual assaults and four rapes from the year prior. Meanwhile, in 2014, a 24-year-old British man reported being pinned down and raped by two men while peeing in the bushes at the edge of the festival grounds in an attempt to avoid long restroom lines.

Approximately one half of all sexual assaults are committed by an attacker that has been drinking alcohol. And an estimated two million gallons of beer will be consumed by the millions of people who attend this year's festival. The task of preventing and policing sexual assault during Oktoberfest is a monumental one, and worth being mindful of while attending the festival.