Given the increased reporting of incidents of violent sexual assaults at German festivals are these festivals safe for foreign women to attend? What should be done to decrease risk when attending, for example, Oktoberfest?

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    Your claim that sexual assault is a part of German culture is ridiculous. It's regarded as a very serious crime just like in any other country.
    – user19361
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 16:42
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    @hownowbrowncow, that is certainly not the "new normal." Some refugee groups contain an over-average number of young adult males. When the statistics are corrected for age and gender, you get a more balanced picture -- which does include German and non-German organized crime. Remember that Cologne was mostly about mass robbery.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 20:31
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    Remember that Germany has a very limited definition of rape: In Germany, no means yes. Many rape cases do not get computed. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 21:48
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    @QuoraFeans related question on Skeptics.SE: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/32202/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 2:49
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    The press reports incidents that are new and rare. Otherwise, they would not be news.
    – boot4life
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 11:58

4 Answers 4

  • There were many crimes (a few cases of rape, mostly theft, robbery, and assault) during the New Year's Eve Celebrations in Cologne which have been attributed to young migrants from North Africa. The police underestimated the situation and mishandled the aftermath.
  • Under German law, rape is distinct from sexual assault. According to Wikipedia, there were three rape cases.
  • Similar crimes happen at a much lower rate at trouble spots like the Kottbusser Tor in Berlin.
  • Bavaria has a reputation for being tough on crime, especially at events like the Oktoberfest.

Summarized, you should be pretty safe unless you end up drunk in a dark alley at 3 a.m. That's dangerous anywhere in the world.

  • 1
    I like the hint that while certain parts are dangerous for foreigners it can also be dangerous for natives too. Turns out taking a bunch of people and locking them in the biggest keg party in the world causes a few of them to get violent...
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:28
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    @corsiKa, Munich has a long experience at handling masses of drunk Oktoberfest visitors. Paramedics on the scene, police patrols, etc. There are many reasons to avoid the Oktoberfest, from the outrageous beer prices to the music, but I would be no more (and no less) concerned about security than at any other mass event in the West these days.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:46
  • "According to Wikipedia, there were three rape cases." - that's worded as if there's only ever been three prosecutions for rape. Did you mean something else, such as there being three definitions of rape?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 3:00
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    @AndrewGrimm: Three rapes are alleged to have been committed in Cologne during the New Year's Eve celebrations, according to the Wikipedia article. It does not say whether anyone has been formally charged with this particular offense in connection with those allegations. Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 4:11
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    @AndrewGrimm, the prosecution opens an investigation if there is an Anfangsverdacht (initial suspicion) that a serious crime has taken place. The perpetrator and the victim don't have to be known at this point. Somebody is charged if there is hinreichender Tatverdacht (sufficient suspicion), which means that the prosecution considers it likely that they wll secure a conviction. Obviously this means that the the prosecution thinks they know the perpetrator. The New Year's Eve events were a mix of sexual violence, robbery, and theft, and so far most charges are for property crimes.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 5:48

Germany is a very safe place to be in, even as a woman, even when travelling alone. That includes festivals such as the Oktoberfest with obvious caveats I’ll deal with in a second. The assault series you mentioned drew as much attention as they did because:

  1. They are not typical for Germany, i.e. the count was exceptionally large within a small timeframe;
  2. A large number of them was commited by persons with a foreign-looking phaenotype;[1]
  3. The police handled the matter in an abysmal way including not caring, which lead to a few leading positions opening up for new applicants especially within the Cologne police forces.

This caused a large public outcry assuming Germany be unsafe and many other things fuelling support for extreme-right political positions — largely unjustified by statistics.[2]

On a statistical basis, however, there is no reason to assume any significant difference in the 2016 festival season when compared to the 2014 one. Sexual assaults are not common and they are condemned by the general public. You can see Germans in all ranges of clothing from well-covered to hotpants and revealing tops at all sorts of festivals and most have nothing to complain about afterwards.

The obvious caveats are:

  • The Oktoberfest is a beer festival, so you will see many people pretty drunk pretty early and not sober up during the day. (Drunk people will pose a certain hazard when it comes to sexual assaults in any country, so this is not specific.)
  • It is pretty crowded so you may find people absuing the crowd. (Again, this can happen anywhere.)

Exercise common sense and a sane amount of caution (that is actually pretty much covered by the common sense bit) and you will be fine. Enjoy your beer.

[1]: I am explicitly avoiding the terms asylum-seekers, muslims, Middle Easterners or similar because I didn’t really follow the news coverage and thus have seen no conclusive evidence that they were what many people claim they were.

[2]: All statistics I have seen so far note that people without the German nationality living in Germany are less likely to be criminal offenders than German nationals. And also that the overwhelming portion of offences committed by non-German nationals are those that Germans cannot commit such as overstaying one’s residence permit, illegally gaining entrance etc.

  • 2
    If you use link formatting, the expectation is not to link in your own post but to link to another site that supports the statement given. You state you "didn't really follow the news coverage", yet state "All statistics I have seen so far...". If you have seen no statistics and watched no news, you could factually state everything you have stated and yet be completely factually incorrect. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 18:45
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    @Keeta I didn’t link anywhere. I have seen a large number of statistics, however, they were mostly on paper and/or dug somewhere that would be too hard to dig up again. Many of them predate New Year. All of them were outside of the context given. Many come from government sources, so do not fall under ‘news’. I did not follow the news coverage to the extent that would allow me to believe or not believe the hypothesis ‘Arab males’ or ‘asylum seekers’. Indeed, I believe that the nationality and legality status of these individuals is irrelevant to both the news and the claim of the question.
    – Jan
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:03
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    Whilst that is a peculiarity of SE's markup engine, in this case Jan has carefully avoided using [number] in such a way that the markup engine performs that local interpretation. I understood him/her to be indicating footnotes, and read them as such.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:21
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    I am just suggesting with a comment that if you are stating something as a fact, that it should be backed up with a source. For instance, this link (not specific to this incident) would seem to refute part of your unbacked claim. express.co.uk/news/world/644827/… Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:39
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    What MadHatter said is correct. I may be biased by being a chemist, but superscripted numbers enclosed in square brackets are what I expect footnotes to look like. By the way, the trick is to use \[number\], it will escape the MarkDown rendering. If I had not used backslashes, the system would have tried to interpret it as a link and removed the [1].
    – Jan
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:39

Yes, they're pretty safe.

The reports of the sexual assaults gained such publicity because of how loaded that topic was/is in a political sense. Although still horrible, they weren't mass rapes rather than sexual slander and infringements.

These actions in almost all of the cases happened in the anonymity of a larger crowd that even before acted agressivly.

Since these incidents aren't the norm at all, the same advice that's valid for all gatherings of people applies to Germany as well: If you see a crowd you'd rather not be in, avoid them. If a situation seems to get out of hand, ask for help.

  • 2
    What's "sexual slander"?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 2:55
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    The phrase I tried to translate here is "Beleidigung auf sexueller Basis", basically "insults with sexual content"
    – npst
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 9:52

All things being equal it's safer to go just about anywhere in Germany or just about anywhere in Western Europe than it is to be in the US:


DE: 0.9 / US: 3.8


DE: 23.57 / US: 55.84

Even if there's a recent blip in violence owing to a handful of nut jobs, it's still safer overall...

  • 2
    Crime stats in the US should be taken state by state, rather than overall, since a handful of cities is responsible for most homicides. Likewise Europe as a whole would be skewed by crime stats in the East.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 16:14
  • Those links lack data about the current year and don't cover the famous incidents of sexual assault, since they happened this year
    – npst
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 16:48
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    @npst: the Cologne's sexual assaults won't impact any statistics based on a population of 80,000,000. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 21:45
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    The OP was asking about sexual assault, not homicide, and not about petty crime.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 2:57
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    @QuoraFeans Those statistics were taken by asking a low number of people "how safe are you feeling?". Any bigger news story may have significant influence, even without affecting the study participants directly
    – npst
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 9:48

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