If The Philadelphia Train Rape Survivor Was Someone You Loved You Would Have Wanted Someone To Intervene

Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock
SEPTA Train

While on a train near Philadelphia, a woman was groped and forcibly raped while onlookers onboard the train failed to intervene and did not call 911.

The suspect, Fiston Ngoy, 35, allegedly started attempting to touch the woman after entering the train and sitting down next to her. 

The woman reportedly pushed back and tried to stop Ngoy from touching her. “Then, unfortunately, he proceeded to rip her clothes off,” said Andrew Busch, a spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, also known as SEPTA.

Many are outraged by the lack of passenger response to the Philadephia train assault.

The rape reportedly lasted eight minutes, as other passengers watched it happen through at least two dozen train stops without calling 911, or intervening.

Transit officers for SEPTA managed to eventually stop Ngoy at a train stop after finding him in the middle of his alleged assault.

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“When the doors opened, an officer entered and saw what he believed was a criminal act occurring," said Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel. "He ripped that man off her and pulled him out onto the platform.”

Both Ngoy and the victim got on the train at the Frankford Transportation Center in northeast Philadelphia. Authorities say they weren’t able to stop the assault until the train had reached the 69th Street terminal in west Philadelphia, which was 27 stops later.

Nestel said they received a lone 911 call from an off-duty transportation employee and responded within three minutes.

Ngoy was charged with rape, sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault without consent, among other crimes. 

Authorities said Mr. Ngoy was homeless and was not armed during the attack. He’s being held at the Delaware County Jail and his bail was set at $180,000. 

It’s appalling to know that out of the many passengers on the train, no one decided to step forward and help the woman.

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“While there were not dozens of people in the car at the time. There was enough that they could have collectively gotten together and done something,” said Timothy Bernhardt, the superintendent of the Upper Darby Township Police Department.

It is unclear the approximate number of passengers on the train, but that train line is the busiest route on SEPTA.

Bystanders owed more to Fiston Ngoy's alleged victim. 

For no one to have come forward or even called 911 right when they began noticing the assault begs the question of if it was you or someone you loved, how would you have felt if no one tried to help them?

Of course, you shouldn’t have to envision the victim as someone else to feel sympathy, but rather should feel sympathy and an urge to help just because that person is a human being who doesn’t deserve something terrible happening to her.

It’s disturbing to know that there was just a total disregard for a woman’s safety, especially when people don’t believe women when they go public with their experiences at the hands of sexual assault.

How can women feel safe to come forward with similar stories when assaults happening in public are ignored? 

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Many of the people on the train who failed to stop the horrid act is an example of the bystander effect, which means the more witnesses there are to a crime, the less likely any single one of them is to call the police.

Though, that is not an excuse for people to stand there, with their phones out, possibly recording the alleged assault, and not one person thought to call 911. 

For how many people were probably on the train, they could’ve easily overpowered Ngoy, instead of having to wait an obscene amount of time for a transit officer to step in.

But, what if that transit officer hadn’t been there? 

It’s a horrifying thought to have when wondering if anyone would have eventually come forward, or if that woman would’ve had to endure the assault for even longer.

If people see something happening, they should act to stop it, especially something as disturbing as a woman being raped right in front of someone’s eyes.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.