If you witnessed someone being assaulted in a public space, would you do something about it? Most of us would respond yes. Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened when a man sexually assaulted and raped a woman on a train in Philadelphia earlier this month. It has authorities and train officials baffled and incredibly disgusted. (1)
Man Rapes Woman On Train While Bystanders Do Nothing
Authorities charged a man with rape and sexual assault on a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) train earlier this month. A number of people on the train witnessed it happening and did nothing. Officials are left confused and horrified that no one intervened.
The man in question is 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy. Video surveillance shows that he got on the train at the same stop as her and sat down beside her. The victim says that he began to talk to her and eventually grabbed her breast. The video shows her pushing him away several times before he finally rips her pants down shortly before 10 pm. The entire assault took place over about 40 minutes and 27 stops on the train. In the video, many passengers can be seen, many with phones in their hands and even some appearing to take a video of the scene. (2)
Finally, an off-duty transit officer boarded the train and saw that something wasn’t quite right. He called 911 immediately, and the authorities arrived minutes later. SEPTA police entered the train, ripped Ngoy off of the woman, and arrested him. They then transported the woman to the hospital.
Why Did No One Help?
Ngoy has since tried to say that he knew the woman and that it was consensual. Despite this, when asked what her name was, he couldn’t answer the question. The victim says she had never met Ngoy in her life. The last recorded address for the now criminal is a homeless shelter.
The fact that this man raped a woman and did so on a train of all places is horrendous. What is just as disturbing, however, is the fact that no one came to her aid. Not only that, they appeared to watch and record what was happening rather than call the police.
“There were people witnessing the act with phones in their hands,” said Police Chief Thomas J Nestel. “People were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked.”
“There was a lot of people, in my opinion, that should have intervened. Somebody should have done something,” agreed Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt. “It speaks to where we are in society and who would allow something like that to take place. So it’s troubling.”
Bernhardt describes the victim as a very strong woman who, despite the trauma she had just been through, was able to give the police plenty of information on what had happened. She said she was coming home from having some after-work drinks and accidentally got on the wrong train when Ngoy approached her. Ngoy now faces charges of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, and related offenses.
It Is Up To Everyone To Keep Public Transit Safe
Who knows how long this assault would have gone on if it weren’t for the transit employee who intervened. While transit officers and employees do their best to keep our public transportation systems safe, they can’t be everywhere and watching everyone. It is up to the people who use the system to work together to prevent criminal acts such as this from occurring.
Both Bernhardt and Nestel want to remind everyone that if you think something seems wrong, inappropriate, or off, call the police immediately. They understand that people may not feel comfortable intervening physically, but if you call the police, they can be there as early as the next stop to take control of the situation. They also remind us that those who may have taken videos instead of calling authorities could also face criminal charges.
“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” said Nestel.
See it, report it. Don’t be a bystander to violence of any kind and be a part of the solution. Together, we can keep our public spaces safe for everyone.
- “‘Angry and disgusted’: Train riders held up phones, didn’t call 911 as woman was raped on Philadelphia train, police say.” USA Today. Christal Hayes. October 20. 2021.
- “Other passengers aimed their smartphones toward a woman being raped on a SEPTA train, police say. But no one intervened.” Inquirer. Vinny Vella. October 18, 2021.