Not My Problem

No one wants to get involved:

A 25-year-old man was charged Thursday for allegedly raping and beating a woman in an apartment hallway -- an incident apparently witnessed by as many as 10 people who did nothing.
Eventually, police showed up after responding to a call about "drunken behavior" in the apartment hallway, where they found the alleged rapist Rage Ibrahim (appropriate name) and the woman both lying unconscious, she with her clothing pulled up and bearing "fresh scratches on her face and blood on her thigh."

When the police reviewed surveillance video from the hallway, they saw that the assault started about 1:20am, but the call about the "drunken behavior" didn't come in until nearly an hour and a half later—even though the video also shows five to 10 people peering our their doors or "starting to walk down the hallway before retreating" during the assault. Police spokesman Tom Walsh said: "It shows one person looking out of her door probably three times. It shows another person walking up, observing what's going on, then turning and putting up the hood of his sweatshirt."

The 26-year-old victim knocked on a door at one point, yelling for the occupants to call police. A man inside that apartment told police he didn't open the door or look out, but said he did call police -- although they have no record of his call, according to court documents.

…Walsh said police were upset by the behavior of the bystanders. "It's not what we expect of responsible citizens," he said.

"If you're not comfortable, if you don't feel capable of intervening, that's fine," Walsh said. "But not calling is not understandable."
Nonetheless, and despite Minnesota's Good Samaritan law which ostensibly compels people to provide reasonable help to a person in danger of "grave physical harm," and makes it a petty misdemeanor if they don't, none of the neighbors are likely to be charged—because "authorities would have to show that witnesses knew the woman was in extreme danger," and what sensible adult could be expected to conclude that a woman beaten until she was bleeding, screaming for help, and being raped was in danger of "grave physical harm," right?

Anyway, the AP is quick to inform us, she'd been drinking. Plus, the alleged rapist makes a good point.

[The complaint] said the woman was visiting the apartment of a friend, where she met Ibrahim; after drinking for several hours, she told police Ibrahim tried to stop her from leaving, and began to assault her.

Ibrahim denied to police that he tried to rape the woman, saying if he wanted to do so he would have done it in the apartment, according to the complaint.
Yeah, I mean, why rape her out in the hallway where there might have been witnesses? They might do absolutely nothing!

Ibrahim also explained: "I've got a mom, I've got a sister. I wouldn't rape anyone." Right, I forgot how rapists don't have mothers.

You know, I actually hope this story's wrong. I quite genuinely want to believe that a record of that call will be found, or, I don't know, something. Except I don't hold out much hope for it. I've been shocked on far too many occasions in my life by the callous disregard for human life, including lives right in front of our noses.* I've seen people literally step over a body stretched lengthwise across the sidewalk on Chicago's Michigan Avenue during evening rush hour—dozens of people, walking around or right over the prostrate figure of a homeless man, on their hurried way home. I stopped to see if he was okay, if he needed medical attention, if he was alive, and people stopped not to help, but to look at me with utter disgust, before walking on. And just recently, a man had a stroke and fell and cracked his head open on the train platform in front of Mr. Shakes during morning rush hour. He was the only one who stopped to help this elderly man, staying with him and trying to care for him and making sure he was breathing, alive, until the paramedics arrived.

That's why the whole "not my problem" posture doesn't work for me. Because if I don't make it my problem when someone else needs help, maybe no one else will. Everyone seems to presume that someone else will help, surely there are plenty of Good Samaritans in the world, it's not like everyone will do nothing, someone else will do the Right Thing—but on what, precisely, is that presumption based? If you can find an excuse to not get involved, what makes you think everyone else can't do the same? Is it the one person—the girl crouched over the homeless man on the sidewalk, the guy cradling the bleeding man on the train platform—that one person you always seem to see that reassures you there's always someone else, that it never has to be you?

On another occasion, I was on the el, when a man sitting across from me—I can still picture him in his clean Bulls jumpsuit and dingy gray coat fifteen years later—pulled out his penis and started masturbating and leaning toward me. When I stood up to get off the train, he grabbed me, still masturbating with the other hand, grunting and panting, and I had to wrestle free of his grip to get off the train. There were at least a dozen other people on that train, mostly men, and not a single one of them stood to help me or said a word, even as I struggled and yelled. Evidently, I was the only one on the train who would have been willing to "get involved" to at least try to protect someone from the assault, but I was the one being assaulted. Bad luck.

But I guess that's my problem.


* I've been shocked on occasions by some rather astonishingly brave and wonderful things, too, but I would be lying if I said they were not decidedly more rare.

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