Why Philadelphia Train Passenger Accounts Didn’t Intervene in Rape Spread | Crime of the United States

The news was appalling, the parable of the inhumanity so bleak that it was destined to go viral.

Two weeks ago, police said that passengers on a lift train in Philadelphia watched a man rape a woman and did not intervene – and that some riders could even record the October 13 attack on their mobile phones. These observers did not call for help during the attack. According to police, the only person who dialed 911 was a non-working transporter.

“I am shocked by those who have done nothing to help this woman,” said Timothy Bernhardt, head of the Upper Darby Police Department, on October 16. “Anyone who has been on this train should look in the mirror and ask why they didn’t intervene or why they didn’t do something.”

Bernhard said idle passengers could even be prosecuted Philadelphia Inquirer. Transit authorities made similar statements, and the story quickly spread across America and then the world as a grim symbol of an inattentive society obsessed with social media about helping the victim of the attack.

But now it seems the story was not entirely accurate. In fact, the story is much more complicated, it shows not only a brutal crime, but also how the false story unfolded in the press. At the same time, horrific rape reveals social problems in America, but they focus around crime, pandemics, and police, not the detrimental effects of social media.

The Delaware District Attorney, whose office is prosecuting alleged rapist Fiston Ngoya, said the image of casual passers-by heartlessly filming the crime “is simply not true.” Prosecutor Jack Stollsteimer said that the authorities and the media were wrong to say that people “sat in the pictures and did not act”, calling it “misinformation.”

While Ngoya’s alleged interactions with the victim took place over a 40-minute period, starting with unwanted conversations and then groping, the rape lasted about six minutes. The other riders were not on the train during the entire interaction time and may not have known what was going on, Stolsteimer said.

Video of surveillance from the train showed that two passengers picked up their phones in the direction of the attack, and that one of them passed his video to the authorities, reports AP.

A woman holds a sign on a train reading “Rape is a real crime” during a rally in Philadelphia on October 30. Photo: Thomas Hengge / AP

The dramatic turn of events raised questions about how the original story originated and why it could remain valid. There is no clear answer – the explanations are multifaceted and varied, ranging from the responsibility of the police and ending with widespread public fears to long-standing concerns about public safety.

But one final starting point is this The case of Kitty Genovese. The assassination of Genovese in New York in 1964 gained international notoriety after the New York Times report claimed that nearly 40 people had witnessed the attack on her and had not tried to help her. The incident has been widely studied, and the so-called “side-observer effect” – the notion that when everyone thinks someone else will act, no one does – has become a shortage of coursework in psychology.

Many years later it turned out that the description of casual passers-by in the Times was incorrect. Witnesses to Genovese’s killing were far fewer than reported, and some have contacted authorities. One of Genovese’s neighbors came out to help her by pinning the 28-year-old dying in anticipation of paramedics. Most brightly, an ambulance arrived at the scene, “precisely because the neighbors called for help,” writes the New Yorker said in explaining how the original narrative was debunked.

Indeed, a current survey of bystanders contradicts initial police reports of Septa passengers. A study based on videos of 200 violent crimes in the three countries found that “in 90% of these cases, passers-by intervened,” said Elizabeth Eglich, a psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. .

“Therefore, the observer effect that we have known or taught him for decades may be inappropriate today,” Eglich said. “There are various factors that affect how people act and react, but for the most part, when a crime is obvious and it is a serious crime, in almost all cases people will intervene.”

If passers-by worry about their own safety or are physically unable to intervene, they can intervene, go for help or call the police. Some have suggested that shooting bystanders may even be an attempt at intervention. “Perhaps they are trying to help film it because it can help prosecute the crime,” Eglich said.

Roy Peter Clark, a senior fellow at the Pointer Institute of Journalism in St. Petersburg, Florida, said the concept of “main narrative” – ​​in fact cultural motifs that really stick together – helps explain why the original story resonated, even if the facts didn’t end up. add up.

“That’s what makes it the main story – other stories are dismissed as false, misleading or misinformation if they don’t match the specific story,” said Clark, who wrote and discussed the case of Genoa. Genovese’s story seemed to prove a story of “community loss, urban isolation, and alienation,” not to mention the decline of good Samaritanism.

The same may have happened with the Septa attack.

“It could be exacerbated by the current moment – a pandemic, catastrophic weather, economic disruptions, people who can’t perform normal constructive community rituals of community and society,” Clark said. “Whatever the darkness in these major stories, they may have been augmented by our shared current experience.”

Eglich expressed similar sentiments, saying: “We are in a period of time when things are very polarized and we often jump to conclusions without considering all aspects of the situation.

“Many people want to be drawn to the story that there is a lot of doom and gloom in humanity, that people are acting very negatively.”

But dismissing the story would also be a mistake, say people who actually live in the communities served by Septa and who ride its trains.

Septa passengers in Philadelphia and the suburbs of Upper Derby did not find the notion of inattentive passers-by so unbelievable, given their own security concerns that preceded the rape. When it was shown that the initial descriptions of inattentive passers-by were untrue, the consensus was that it didn’t matter much.

“You can’t see a sexual act,” said 38-year-old Victoria Evans. “I would rather risk interfering than not saying anything.”

Evans, a certified nurse assistant, said body language was meant to make people think twice about what they saw. “It would look awkward. You can tell the difference. Didn’t anyone know that something was wrong? “

«I was very sad because I take [train] every day, ”said 18-year-old Nesher Tucker. «Nowhere in Philadelphia do I feel safe, especially as a woman. ” Tucker said the fact that the rape took place in public, on the train, is incredibly sad.

Even though the initial police report regarding bystanders was not true, she said: “I think someone definitely had to say something.”

Many passengers, many of them colored people, and especially women, really consider riding public transport in the city a scary experience where crime seems possible and the presence of police is little on the ground.

“It was a mixture of surprise and no surprise,” said Nur Rana, a 19-year-old biology student, about her reaction to the incident. “I was somehow scared – for myself, for other women my age.

“Go tell the police. Sit down to another car. You can do so many things, ”she said. “I don’t think there’s an excuse not to do anything.”

Would she have treated passers-by differently if they had not known what was happening, as the authorities have now stated?

“This is Philadelphia. Crazy things happen, so I feel like a lot of people tend to ignore things, ”she said. Even if people mistakenly thought that the meeting was by agreement, they should have reported it to the authorities, because “it’s still obscene.”

Some of the respondents said that a larger police presence was needed on the transport network. “They are paid to protect the population. You don’t see how they do anything. Police do not patrol inside trains, said 46-year-old Esdras Taylor. – The public is not going to do that. They have to do their job. ”

But after the attack, even before Stollsteimer gave more information, some residents remained optimistic.

Janice Armstrong, a metro columnist for Inquirer, did not believe the description of passers-by, originally laid out by police. “It took me a while to write something,” Armstrong said in an interview. “I thought about it every day after hearing the original report, but I was just trying to imagine it and I couldn’t.” She told herself that there should be more in history.

Before Stollsteimer gave more information, Armstrong worked on a column on how something went wrong. Then came the information about Stolmeister’s press conference. She rushed there. “I was glad I did it because it reinforced my initial assumption that it didn’t happen the way people said,” she said.

У column Armstrong wrote after the information surfaced, she interviewed Septa police officer Tom Schiller, who along with his partner detained Ngoya when the train arrived at 69th Street station. Shilira told her that the other riders quickly pointed to Ngoya.

“As soon as the carriages opened, everyone was showing,‘ There! It’s there, “Schiller told her. A week earlier, Schiller had arrested another man at the station for sexual assault. A good Samaritan was rushing to the victim’s aid; Schiller heard screams and rushed to the incident.

“People are so quick to believe the worst about humanity. And ignore the good among us, ”Armstrong wrote.

“Philly is a tough, tough city,” she said, “but I’d like to think it’s not that hard when there are passengers on the train filming a woman raping a woman.”

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