Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority trains
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority trains are seen parked in the vicinity of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock)

Philadelphia SEPTA Commuters Do Nothing as Woman is Raped on Evening Train

In a truly shocking display, a woman in Philadelphia was recently raped on a train filled with commuters — and nobody did anything to stop the attack.

Claudia Lauer of the Associated Press reported that “a man charged with raping a woman on a commuter train just outside of Philadelphia harassed her for more than 40 minutes while multiple people held up their phones to seemingly record the assault without intervening.”

While at least a couple of bystanders on the train appeared to have recorded the incident on their cell phones, authorities have said they don’t believe a single person on the train attempted to dial 911. Officers said both the victim and her assailant appeared to have gotten on the train at the same North Philadelphia stop. Nearly an hour later, a transportation authority employee saw the assault still taking place and called the police. Local authorities responded within minutes, finally pulling the man off the woman at the train’s final stop.

“More than two dozen train stops passed as the man harassed, groped and eventually raped the woman,” Thomas J. Nestel, the police chief for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), said in a news conference Monday, Oct. 18. “What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer.”

Nestel said the attack was captured on the train’s surveillance cameras, and the woman was seen repeatedly pushing the man away during the early stages of the assault. Although Nestel declined to say how many potential witnesses were on the train at any one time, he said the behavior of those who stood by and did nothing was disturbing.

“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” he said.

Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt of the Upper Darby Police Department issued a statement saying that someone on the train “should have done something.” In an interview with The New York Times, he also said that “people who recorded the attack and failed to intervene could possibly be charged, but that [it] would be up to the Delaware County District Attorney’s office to determine.”

The man arrested for the attack is 35 years old and is currently being held on $180,000 bail with a court appearance scheduled for next week. He has claimed that he knew the woman — although he couldn’t remember her name — and told police the “encounter was consensual.”

“SEPTA issued a statement calling it a ‘horrendous criminal act’ and urged anyone witnessing such a thing to report it to authorities by calling 911, pressing an emergency button on every train car, or using the authorities’ emergency safety app,” Lauer reported.

A SEPTA spokesperson added that this horrific act “may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911.”


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