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Woman raped as bystanders do nothing on train near Philadelphia

Police car lights. (Dan Scanlan/Florida Times-Union/TNS)
October 18, 2021

Authorities said passengers on a train near Philadelphia watched but failed to intervene last week as a woman was being raped.

The New York Times reported that the rapist, identified as Fiston Ngoy, sat down next to the victim on a train heading westbound toward the 69th Street Transportation Center on the Market-Frankford Line around 10 p.m.

Andrew Busch, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority spokesman, said the man “attempted to touch her a few times” but the woman resisted.

“Then, unfortunately, he proceeded to rip her clothes off,” Busch said. The attack lasted at least eight minutes.

“I’m appalled by those who did nothing to help this woman,” said Timothy Bernhardt, the superintendent of the Upper Darby Township Police Department. “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.”

Authorities said Ngoy, 35, was arrested and charged with rape, sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault without consent. Ngoy, a homeless man, was not armed during the assault. He was booked at the Delaware County Jail.

While Bernhardt did not reveal how many passengers were in the car at the time of the rape, the police superintendent said, “collectively, they could have gotten together and done something.”

Bernhardt also said investigators had gotten reports of passengers recording the rape with their phones, but law enforcement has not confirmed the reports.

A transportation authority worker eventually called 911 after boarding the train and seeing what was occurring. An officer then “ran onto the train and caught this man in the act and took him into custody,” Busch added.

While surveillance footage does not provide audio of the assault, Bernhardt said the video clearly shows that the other passengers had time to intervene.

“What this woman endured at the hands of this guy, what she’s been able to provide for us, it’s been unbelievable,” Bernhardt noted. The rape victim was transported to a local hospital for evaluation.  

Bernhardt also said passengers who did not intervene could face criminal charges if they recorded the assault. Alexis Piquero, University of Miami criminologist, said people choose not to intervene in an active crime for a number of reasons, including fear of retaliation and believing someone else will step up.

“The onus is really on us as a collective because we can’t always rely on the police,” he said. “We have to rely on one another.”

“We need a world where people are doing the right thing when you see someone assaulted,” he said.