Decoding the Heinous Train Rape in Philadelphia

It was around 9.15 pm on October 13, 2021, in northeast Philadelphia. Around 11 passengers were on board a SEPTA train, most probably on their way home. Among the passengers was a woman who had accidentally boarded the wrong train.

According to charging documents obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer, a homeless man by the name of Fiston Ngoy entered the train a minute later and attempted to strike up a conversation with the woman. He subsequently moved to the seat next to her.

Photo via Upper Darby Police

Ngoy then spent nearly 45 minutes that included 27 stops harassing the woman, groping her, and touching her breast, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The woman struggled to restrain Ngoy. He eventually ripped her clothes off and raped her.

Thankfully, an off-duty SEPTA employee who boarded the train later witnessed the violence in progress and called 911.

According to the Daily Mail, Ngoy entered the US from the Congo on a student visa in 2012 but remained after his visa was terminated in 2015 and was protected from deportation by the immigration system despite multiple convictions as recent as this May.  

Court records show that Ngoy had multiple arrests dating back to 2015 and two misdemeanor convictions, one for controlled substances and one for sexual abuse.

He pleaded guilty to the sex charge in 2017 and was sentenced to 120 days in jail, and was then placed in immigration detention in January 2018.

However, Ngoy was never deported, because an immigration judge granted him a 'withholding of removal' in March 2019, after an appeals board found that his sex crime was not a “serious crime” that made him eligible for removal. 

Since then, Ngoy has been free and required only to check in periodically with Immigration and Customs Enforcement under an order of supervision. 

He was arrested twice more in the past year, for disorderly conduct 

An innocent woman was accordingly subjected to unspeakable violence, because of a failed immigration system and the irresponsibility of an immigration judge.

To say this is outrageous is an understatement.

This once again proves the urgent need to ensure fix the broken immigration system and to deport criminal illegal aliens immediately.

However, that wasn’t the only outrage on display that fateful day.

What astounded many including law enforcement officials is that the passengers around allowed the assault to occur.

Nobody expected passengers to physically confront and restrain the rapist. That would have been brave, but also very risky; if the man had been armed, he could have started indiscriminately shooting out of desperation, causing the loss of many lives.

There are a few probable reasons why people didn’t intervene the moment Ngoy began touching the women despite the protest.

The perpetrator, as we know, is a Black man.

Consider a scenario where some men on board the train had intervened and restrained the perpetrator the moment he started behaving inappropriately. Let’s also imagine the scenarios where one among them was Caucasian.

How would the mainstream media have reacted?

What are the odds that the men would have been called racist with MSNBC’s Joy Reid leading the charge?

What are the odds that the actions of the perpetrator would have been downplayed and the protectors were called a modern-day lynch mob? 

What are the odds that they and their families would have been hounded till the end of time rendering them unemployable?

What are the odds that activist lawyers and politicians, looking to score easy points, would have dragged them through the legal system, twisted their statements, tarnished their image forever, and destroyed all they had with mounting legal bills for defense?

What are the odds that they would have been lauded and applauded for being heroes?

We all know the answers to the above questions.

To protect our fellow human beings should always be our first instinct.

However, in the current climate, people do think twice, because the risks can be life-destroying.

In fact, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that quickly calling 911 could have been regarded as a racist act.

The narrative probably would have been that a person of color was merely attempting to talk to a woman, but a racist called 911, and the racist police restrained him.

They once again would probably have been subjected to coordinated harassment and cancellation would probably follow.

Preventing a crime is the best way to fight crime. But since the incident had never occurred, it could be spun the narrative to actually make the preventer look like the perpetrator.

Another possible reason for people's reticence to call 911 is that nobody wants to get mixed up with the police unless it is absolutely necessary.

However, we still haven’t reached the bottom of the barrel.

The passengers in the train reportedly recorded videos of the unspeakable act of barbarity with their cellphones.

Were they filming so they can present it as evidence for the police? A slim possibility of that being the case, but nevertheless a possibility.

Considering the heinousness of the crime it is unlikely that any media outlet or agency would pay for these videos, as they usually do for rare video footage.

The other most probable reason is what psychiatrists call bystander apathy.

This is related to the bystander effect, a phenomenon in which people witness someone else in peril, but do nothing to intervene or offer assistance.

One of the primary reasons for apathy is the lack of human contact.

Apathy was already a serious problem, and Covid19 lockdowns have made matters worse.

When there is no face-to-face contact for prolonged periods of time, human compassion and understanding begin to erode.

In current times, face-to-face meetings have been replaced by social media where people receive gratification via likes, emoticons, or terse comments. Where users frequently join online lynch mobs and follow trends without thought, and where each tries to be more outrageous to gain attention. 

Perhaps the people filming the videos thought they could share it in some form on social media or on private chat groups -- i.e., it was something sensational that would keep them occupied for a few days.

We thus have three serious issues.

The first is the lack of enforcement of immigration laws; the fault here lies solely with the government.

The second is the fear of the public to prevent a crime because they do not want to be subjected to scrutiny and be called racist.  The fault here lies with the proclivity of those in the position of power to view every occurrence from the prism of race or identity.

The third is general apathy such that they film the crime instead of stopping it; the fault lies with social media addiction.

Tragically a young woman may have suffered certainly because of the first and probably because of the second and third.

Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom before you rise and take remedial action.

If there is any positive to be derived from this appalling incident?  Let's hope it serves as a wake-up call.

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