Railroad Rape Case in Philadelphia Reveals ‘Bystander Effect’

The case of a fellow train passenger who took no action to stop a man raping a woman on a Philadelphia suburban train last week is the latest example of the “bystander effect.”

Authorities in suburban Philadelphia said a man raped a woman in a train car packed with other passengers, which police said “should have done something.”

Upper Darby Police were only called to the 69th Street terminal on Wednesday (13/10) night after the attack. Police said a transit employee on duty around the train reported “something was wrong” with a woman who was on the train. The monitoring video on the train car shows all incidents of rape and other passengers in the carriage.

A group of people wearing clothes that read "Say No to Rape".  (Photo: Reuters)

A group of people wearing shirts that read “Say No to Rape”. (Photo: Reuters)

A psychologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, Prof. Elizabeth Jeglic, to Associated Press said “as a human being, as a sexual violence prevention researcher, he is devastated and saddened.”

Jeglic considers this phenomenon “worrisome” because many studies have historically demonstrated what he calls the “bystander effect.”

“That is when there are a lot of people, then people feel there is no need to intervene,” he explained, “either to contact the police, or take action to prevent the crime.”

He said more recent research showed that under extreme circumstances, 90 percent of cases studied showed people intervened.

“So it’s actually a bit deviant when in this case no one comes forward to help the victim,” he said quietly.

“Bystander Effect”

What is called the “bystander effect,” according to Prof. Elizabeth Jeglic emerged in the 1960s following the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York.

“At that time it was reported that 38 people had heard or knew how he was killed and no one had done anything. Forty years later some information has emerged showing that what actually happened was not as many assumed, and that some people had called the police,” said Jeglic.

However, he adds, this has sparked further study of the so-called “bystander effect,” namely that “when there are a lot of people watching an event, there seems to be a division of responsibilities and everyone thinks that someone else will do something.” so they don’t have to. And in the end no one did anything.”

But there is more recent research showing that people will actually intervene in very dangerous situations.

Referring to the events in a commuter train car in the suburbs of Philadelphia last week, Jeglic said there needs to be awareness to think “what if this is your sister, mother or boyfriend? Of course we want someone to help them in a similar situation.”

By instilling this understanding, “if something like this happens in the future and if we personally don’t feel comfortable intervening, at least (we can) contact the authorities or ask someone else to help so that people who those difficulties can be helped,” added Jeglic.

Police have arrested a 35-year-old man suspected of being the perpetrator of the rape in a train car in Philadelphia. However, until this report was submitted, the police had not provided details on the identity of the perpetrator and other information. (em / jm)

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