This morning I saw the story above on the Today Show, featuring a young rape survivor named Maria recounting her horrific story of being raped by a stranger in a New York City subway in 2005. She tells a harrowing narrative of finding herself alone on a subway train at 2am and her intuition sending her serious dangers signals. After missing her stop, she gets off at the next one and the man follows her. She breaks into a run up the steps towards the exit, and he pulls her backwards down the stairwell. He rapes her at the bottom of the stairs.
But she wasn’t alone in the Subway station that night. As she ran up the steps to escape, there was an MTA attendant on duty and he locked eyes with her. He saw what was happening and called the authorities. He did not leave his booth and did not intervene beyond calling the emergency hotline for the MTA. Should he have done more?
Maria sued the MTA, claiming she blames the employee more than her rapist. She says the perpetrator had mental problems with no sense of reality and had no conscience, but the MTA worker did. She states she wasn’t expecting a physical intervention, but at least to yell over the intercom or do something more than hitting an emergency button. Is that too unreasonable to ask? In general, this begs the question, who was responsible for Maria’s safety that night?
Herein lies the great debate within the violence prevention community. Some say we should only be educating violent people to stop committing crimes – “We shouldn’t have to deal with violence or learn to protect ourselves in the first place – men should simply not attack women!” they say. Some are victim blamers – “What right did she have to be on a Subway at 2am by herself? And why didn’t she fight back?”, they marvel. Some agree with Maria and blame the bystander – “Why the hell didn’t he do more?”
I think this is the problem with violence prevention in America – there are so many different stances that oversimplify the issue. Men or women or good guys or bad guys alone will not end violence. It’s got to be a community effort. We must be responsible for ourselves, and be willing to take action on behalf of another – regardless if they are friend, foe or total stranger. Our education needs to reflect this, the younger the better in my opinion.
What do you think? Who is to blame, and should Maria win the lawsuit when she appeals?