Multiple bystanders failed to intervene as a man on board a train harassed and raped a woman for about 40 minutes, police say.
Police arrested 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy, who is homeless, Wednesday night on charges including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault without consent after he allegedly attacked a woman on board a train near Philadelphia. Throughout the attack, multiple witnesses failed to intervene or call 911 as Ngoy allegedly tore off the woman’s clothes and assaulted her.
Police said Monday that the man harassed the woman for about 40 minutes while nobody on the train intervened. He eventually began ripping off her clothes, sexually assaulting, and raping her as she attempted to push him away, police said according to WPVI.
Ngoy told police in a statement that he knew the woman, but could not remember her name. He also claimed that the encounter was consensual.
Upper Darby Township Police Department police superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said on Sunday that while there were not “dozens” of people in the train car at the time, there were enough that “collectively, they could have gotten together and done something,” according to The New York Times.
“I’m appalled by those who did nothing to help this woman,” Bernhardt said. “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.”
The man assaulted the woman for roughly eight minutes until the train stopped and a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) employee boarded the car, saw what was happening, and called 911. A police officer then entered the car and caught Ngoy “in the act,” Bernhardt said.
The police superintendent said Sunday that there were reports that bystanders had filmed the attack while failing to intervene. If witnesses had filmed the attack and failed to intervene to stop it, they could be facing criminal charges, as well, Bernhardt said. Whether to bring charges or not would be up to the Delaware County district attorney’s office.
On Monday, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said, “I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” stopping short of saying that the bystanders were filming the attack on their phones, according to WPVI.
“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” Nestel said. SEPTA is reminding passengers that every train car is equipped with a button that can be pressed to raise the alarm during an emergency.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice psychology professor Elizabeth Jeglic told WPVI that the fact that nobody interviewed during the woman’s roughly 40-minute assault is an “aberration.”
“When we have multiple people, people don’t necessarily intervene,” she said. “However, more recent research actually suggests that looking at video footage of more extreme circumstances that up to 90% of cases we do see people intervening. So it was actually somewhat of an aberration in this case that somebody did not step forward to help this individual.”
In a statement on Friday, SEPTA encouraged riders to report emergencies immediately.
“The assault was observed by a SEPTA employee, who called 911, enabling SEPTA officers to respond immediately and apprehend the suspect in the act,” SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said in a statement. “There were other people on the train who witnessed this horrific act, and it may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911. SEPTA urges anyone who observes a crime being committed or any dangerous situation occurring to report it. Anyone witnessing an emergency should immediately call 911.”