The Slatest

A Woman Was Raped on a Pennsylvania Train. Witnesses Didn’t Even Call 911.

SEPTA trains idling outside
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Passengers on a train near Philadelphia watched as a woman was raped on Wednesday night but did nothing to help or even call 911, police say. The woman was assaulted at around 11 p.m. while riding the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Market–Frankford line. The assault began when a man, who has been identified as Fiston Ngoy, sat down next to the woman and tried to strike up a conversation. He eventually got aggressive and tried to touch her a few times. The woman pushed him away and tried to prevent him from touching her again. “Then, unfortunately, he proceeded to rip her clothes off,” Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesman, said.

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The assault went on for around eight minutes. And throughout that entire time, none of the passengers in the train car did anything. “Anybody that was on that train has to look in the mirror and ask why they didn’t intervene or why they didn’t do something,” Timothy Bernhardt, the superintendent of the Upper Darby Township Police Department, said. It was only when a SEPTA employee saw what was going on that 911 was called and officers immediately responded and were able to catch the suspect in the act. “If somebody who witnessed this had called 911, it’s possible that we would have been able to intervene even sooner,” Busch said. Officials haven’t detailed how many other passengers there were in the train car at the time. Bernhardt said there were not “dozens of people” but there were enough that “collectively, they could have gotten together and done something.”

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Surveillance video captured the assault, so there’s enough evidence to charge 35-year-old Ngoy. The video also shows how the other riders didn’t do anything while the assault was taking place. “It’s disturbing,” Bernhardt said. “I’m shocked, I have no words for it. I just can’t imagine seeing what you were seeing through your own eyes and seeing what this woman was going through that no one would step in and help her.” Police are also investigating reports that some riders recorded or took photos of the rape. Anyone who recorded the attack but failed to intervene could be charged. But Bernhardt acknowledged it would be “very difficult to bring charges” against people for not intervening.

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