Thursday, April 9, 2009

She cried rape, no one helped, and now she's taking her story public  

Some of you might have heard the horrifying story of the woman who was raped in a subway station four years ago while an MTA worker just stared. I actually based a slam poem I wrote on her story, which I'm going to perform at Take Back the Night next weekend. If you haven't heard Maria's story, it goes like this (trigger warning): she was stuck alone on the subway with a creepy pervert one night. When he began to touch her feet, Maria was so distracted that she missed her stop. She immediately got off at the next stop and began to run, while the douchebag followed her. He grabbed her, pulled her down on the deserted platform, and held her down while raping her. When she screamed and cried, the man held her over the train tracks and threatened to drop her if she didn't stop. The most disturbing part: Maria was looking directly into the eyes of a man working the token booth while it was happening, and he just stared. The MTA worker pressed a button to notify the police, but he didn't even bother to try and scare the rapist away. Now, Maria is publicly denouncing the MTA worker. The MTA issued a statement in response:

"It is important to note that while NYC Transit workers are trained to the highest degree of professionalism in their assigned jobs, they are not and should not be expected to perform in the capacity of law enforcement officers."

But Maria retorts:

"He could have just gotten over the intercom and said, 'Hey! Stop what you're doing! I've called the cops!' Anything like that would have helped. He didn't have to get out of the booth. I don't expect him to be a police officer. But he could have definitely said something over the intercom, or perhaps having a quicker system of notifying the police would have been effective, too."

The police took 10 minutes to show up, and immediately the rapist ran away and was never caught. The token booth worker wasn't the only one to call the police either. While Maria was being raped, a train pulled into the station and the conductor, not bothering to attempt to scare away the rapist either, pushed a similar button to notify the cops, and drove the train away.

After the assault, Maria tried to continue attending grad school at NYU, but she had panic attacks every time she rode the subway and had to quit school. She's now in therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Maria took her story to court, where a judge told her that the MTA workers had no obligation to do anything other than signal for police officers. While reading this story, I was tempted to pity Maria, but I don't think she needs it. It requires a tremendous amount of strength to go public with a horrifying story like this. I admire her courage.

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9 comments: to “ She cried rape, no one helped, and now she's taking her story public

  • April 9, 2009 at 3:43 PM  

    That reminds me of a quote from a friend, about Good and people. Most people aren't good, they just are. Because they don't do evil acts does not make them good, they must do positive acts.

    Still, while I think it sad the MTA workers didn't intervene, I cannot fault them for not intervening. It could have been dangerous, embarrassing, or result in sanctions against their job if they went alone to attempt to help. Merely not knowing what to do is a valid, if sad, reason not to intervene.

    They did the minimum, and while we can ask and hope they'll do good, I'm not sure we should force them.

  • April 9, 2009 at 4:39 PM  

    But this MTA worker was in a token booth... meaning he was at least somewhat protected. No one asked him to run out and try to fight this guy... he could've at least said something over the intercom in the hopes that the rapist would be scared off. It's shit like this that makes rapists think they can get away with it. Rape doesn't seem to bother a lot of people as much as it should.
    And what about all the heroic acts we hear of.. like someone jumping into the train tracks to save the life of someone who fell in? Yes, it's above and beyond... but it's necessary when someone's life is at stake. I wonder if this MTA worker ever finds himself in danger (e.g., being mugged at gunpoint) if he would expect anyone to help him?

  • April 9, 2009 at 7:39 PM  

    I've worked shitty jobs before. I know those workers are probably told if they leave their booth without permission for any reason, they'll be fired. Therefore I agree with Crissa.

  • April 9, 2009 at 9:09 PM  

    1. A worker most likely doesn't have to leave her/his booth to use the intercom.

    2. I would, without a doubt, give up my job if it meant saving someone from being raped.

  • April 10, 2009 at 1:38 PM  

    I take the subway every single day of my life... I've heard those token booth workers use the intercom very loudly without having to move. Why does no one get that that's at least SOMETHING he could've done? And I agree with Amy, I would risk my job if it meant saving someone from getting raped.

  • April 12, 2009 at 2:22 AM  

    I would, without a doubt, give up my job if it meant saving someone from being raped.

    That's easy to say, but I don't think that kind of cheerful job-lost-oh-well attitude is possible for everyone. Not worrying about losing your job (I'll just get a new one!) is pretty privileged.

    Also, would we blame a female MTA worker the same way for not helping? Or are we expecting this man to rescue a woman in distress because that's what *men* are supposed to do for *women* (protect them and be knights in shining armor)?

  • April 12, 2009 at 12:07 PM  

    You're right - I understand that not everyone can afford to lose their job. But in all honesty, I absolutely cannot imagine this worker being fired if he attempted to stop a rape. That would be a scandal in itself.

    As for the male vs. female MTA worker situation: I don't know about everyone else, but I would hold a female employee just as accountable as a male employee. Gender has nothing to do with it; it's about being a decent human being.

  • April 13, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

    It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, all we're saying is the least the MTA worker could've done was shouted over the intercom... no one said a big strong man had to come save this woman and fight the rapist off. I highly doubt the rapist would've turned his attack on the MTA worker who was sitting in the enclosed token booth, surrounded by surveillance cameras.

  • January 14, 2010 at 1:33 PM  

    It is an unfortunate fact of our criminal justice system (which I think should be changed)that if you *yourself* are not in danger when you intervene to defend someone else, YOU can be criminally liable for any injury to the attacker.

    I have even read stories of the women who were attacked getting sued - successfully - by their attacker for injuring him in self-defense.

    In light of those facts, I have a hard time blaming the transit workers because (assuming they survived unscathed)they could have lost more than their just their jobs (their freedom) if they intervened. That said, I would have ABSOLUTELY made a different choice if it was me. I'm 5'3",weigh 120 lbs and i would have jumped that guy.

    Also, I disagree that there is no difference in expectation if the worker was a man or woman. If society is going to change, women (at least those who want that change) have an obligation to stand up for each other when in trouble. So, I would be MORE disappointed if the workers were (non-pregnant, non-single-parent) women who allowed this to happen to a fellow woman.

    Before I get accused of being sexist I want to say that, in an ideal world, everyone will be held to the same standard but - as is observed daily by feminist bloggers - we are not there yet. Besides, yelling at men for not doing what you don't expect women to do IS sexist. So, "Be the change you wish to see" Sisters!