On this morning's Today Show, Meredith Vierra interviewed a young woman who was raped in a subway station in 2005. According to the woman, who is going public with her story now, at least two Metropolitan Transit Authorities witnessed her attack and did not offer her any significant form of help. A conductor and a ticket clerk did notify their superiors about the attack, who then contacted the police. Neither the conductor nor the ticket clerk made any other attempt to aid the young woman. By the time the police arrived, some 10 to 15 minutes later, she had been raped twice and her attacker had fled; no arrest has ever been made in the case. Following her assualt, the woman filed a civil suit against the MTA, alleging that the policies of the MTA enabled the attack. A judge ruled recently that the workers “had taken prompt and decisive action” in notifying their superiors, but they had no obligation to act beyond notifying their superiors. The young woman openly admits that she did not expect either worker to leave the train or the ticket booth, but she does believe that either could have stopped the attack by getting on the loud speaker and telling her attacker that the police were on their way.
As C and I watched this, we were both horrified. The young woman states that she met the gaze of both the conductor and the ticket clerk, and neither did anything more than notify their superiors. I honestly can't fathom not helping someone who was being attacked in front of me, even if interfering meant putting myself at risk. This story has bothered me all morning.
I do wonder, however, if the judge is right. The workers followed MTA procedure to the letter, but the procedure resulted in, at least indirectly, this young woman being raped twice. The judge's ruling, which had to be based on MTA policy, seems to have been right, as much as it sickens me. But did these individuals have a responsiblity, as human beings, to do something more to help this young woman? Is there such a thing as the rhetoric of compassion? Do we have a responsibility to help others who are in immediate danger?