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?
- 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.
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:
- They are not typical for Germany, i.e. the count was exceptionally large within a small timeframe;
- A large number of them was commited by persons with a foreign-looking phaenotype;
- 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.
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.
: 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.
: 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.
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.
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...