Watching a policeman squash a man to death with his knee to the neck of George Floyd feels qualitatively different than sitting in a train car and ignoring a woman being raped by a homeless man. Is it? I don’t know. We are often challenged to make moral and ethical choices on the question of when and whether to act to save a human life or prevent the commission of a crime. I know these choices aren’t easy, but I also know some are easier than others.
It seems like dialing 911 or physically intervening in an active rape would be an easy thing to do, a natural thing to do, and something we should be able to expect from our fellow human beings. So it bothers me and I wonder how it is that multiple people aboard this train car, failed to intervene in an active case of rape. What kind of humans were these? What has happened to people that we could evidence such callous disregard? What if that had been your mother, or sister or girlfriend – would you have an expectation that someone on the train car would have sought a way to help?
In The Handmaid’s Tale, people watch or are forced to participate in all manner of violence and abuse. It’s horrifying to watch, but also easy to see the fear and survival instinct at play. I think if we want to avoid the world described in this fact-based, fictional story, we must practice small acts of courage and resistance. We must become intolerant of violence and injustice.
Deciding how to react to witnessing a police officer killing a human being is, arguably, a difficult ethical challenge. We are taught to respect authority and that police exist to protect good citizens. We probably don’t know why an officer has stopped someone or what crime he may be addressing.
Intervening in a rape on an enclosed train car should not be a difficult choice. Shame on the bystanders who let this happen. — LMO
“The SEPTA train car near Philadelphia had several passengers aboard but none called 911 while the woman was sexually assaulted, the authorities said…
“A man whom officials identified as Fiston Ngoy sat down next to a woman at about 10 p.m. on a train that was traveling westbound on the Market-Frankford Line toward the 69th Street Transportation Center. Mr. Ngoy ‘attempted to touch her a few times,’ said Andrew Busch, a spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, known as SEPTA.
“The woman pushed back and tried to stop Mr. Ngoy from touching her, Mr. Busch said. ‘Then, unfortunately, he proceeded to rip her clothes off,’ Mr. Busch said on Sunday…
“Bystanders on the train who failed to intervene could be criminally charged if they recorded the attack, Mr. Bernhardt said, adding that it would be up to the Delaware County district attorney’s office to make such a decision after the police finish their investigation and submit their findings…” — Eduardo Medina | The New York Times