A woman on a Philadelphia commuter train was harassed and raped over the course of 40 minutes as other passengers stood by and "did nothing." Investigators are wondering why no one stepped in –– not even to call 911 –– but local prosecutors say the other passengers will most likely not face any criminal charges.
The assault took place last Wednesday (October 13) aboard a train owned and operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). Officials with the transit authority said "that there were other people on the train who witnessed this horrific act, and it may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911."
The attack stopped only after a SEPTA employee who boarded the train called the police. Officers found the victim and arrested the suspect, who has been identified as 35-year-old Fishton Ngoy who now faces multiple charges including rape.
The victim was taken to the hospital and is reportedly cooperating with police in the investigation.
As for the bystanders who did not step in, police said a news conference Monday (October 18) that they are looking into the other passengers who may have filmed the assault, but did nothing to help the woman.
Security footage from the train indicates that some of the passengers may have pulled out their phones to record.
"I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of the woman being attacked," SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said at the news conference. "What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute in making the system safer," he added.
Authorities said early on that bystanders who recorded the incident could face criminal charges, though a final decision in the matter won't be made until the Delaware County District Attorney's Office finishes its investigation.
A spokesperson from the DA's office said that the investigation is ongoing and "at the present time there is no expectation that charges will be brought against any of the passengers."
State law does not allow for the prosecution of passengers who did not intervene on the woman's behalf, DA Jack Stollsteimer said Wednesday (October 20).
"Accordingly, any passenger who believes he or she may have observed the October 13th event on the SEPTA train should not fear prosecution," Stollsteimer said, encouraging witnesses to come forward in the case.
Reading about trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
For more mental health resources, click HERE.