Woman assaulted on public transit train while passengers sat idly by.
By Annika Henthorn
A woman last week was allegedly sexually assaulted on a public transit train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This disturbing tragedy was heightened by the inaction of the passengers who did not intervene during the incident. SEPTA has released a statement calling it a “horrendous criminal act” that was observed by people who did not even alert authorities while it was transpiring. The police were only notified when a SEPTA employee finally realized what was happening. It was said by SEPTA General Manager, Leslie Richards, that the employee who reported the incident "probably didn't know exactly what they were seeing,” but continued to call authorities and report it. Police arrived three minutes later and removed the suspect from the victim.
Alex Piquero, a criminologist and sociology professor at the University of Miami, spoke to CNN and revealed potential reasons for the bystanders' lack of assistance. The three reasons he listed were that “some people may have been concerned about retaliation, some people may have been concerned about being harmed themselves, and some people may have thought that someone else is going to intervene." However, Piquero told CNN’s John Avlon that “all three of those, in my view, John, are unacceptable." There are a variety of excuses why people let bad things happen, but none of them are sufficient enough to justify an assault that could have been prevented.
Timothy Bernhardt, the Upper Darby Police Station Superintendent, agrees saying that “collectively, they could have gotten together and done something.” Police argued that those idly watching should have and could have done something to stop such a disgusting act from taking place publicly.
Despite the alleged inaction, the passengers who witnessed the atrocity have been assured they will not be prosecuted. Not only does this encourage witnesses to testify against the suspect, but also, according to Jack Stollsteimer, the Delaware County District Attorney, passengers are "under no criminal obligation to intervene and put [themselves] at risk to stop a violent crime" from occurring. He also reiterated that regardless of the growing narrative in the media about the lack of inaction on the passenger’s part, “we have a security video from SEPTA that shows that was not the true narrative." Those that were on the bus when this took place were not videotaping the heinous crime for their own use. In actuality, two people were allegedly filming the incident, and they suspect that one of them sent in the video as an anonymous tip. However, the reasons for the second filmer are unclear.
The suspect, Fiston M. Ngoy, 35, had a preliminary arraignment for charges of rape, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault without consent, harassment, and more. He is currently held at the Delaware County Prison for 10% on $180,000 bail and had a hearing scheduled for October 25.
Melanie Moyer '22,