Like many people have the last couple of days, I read the story of what happened in a hallway in the Afton View apartments in St. Paul, Minnesota with an unhealthy dose of disgust:
Although police say as many as 10 people witnessed a sexual assault in a St. Paul hallway, the suspect said he has no memory of what happened.
Rage Ibrahim, 25, said he blacked out from drinking too much alcohol. But he said he wouldn’t have committed rape.
“I’m so upset because of the situation I’m in,” Ibrahim said, crying as he headed to the Ramsey County jail on Thursday to turn himself in. “I’ve got a mom, I’ve got a sister. I wouldn’t rape anyone.”
Surveillance video from a Highwood-area apartment hallway makes it clear that a sexual assault happened Tuesday, St. Paul police Cmdr. Shari Gray said.
Prosecutors charged Ibrahim, of St. Paul, on Thursday with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
From five to 10 people peeked out of their apartment doors to see what was happening. Some started walking down the hallway but retreated after witnessing the assault, Gray said, based on surveillance video she saw. None stopped the assault, she said.
Some are speculating that something called the “bystander effect” may have been at play here, while others are suggesting that the culture of the Afton View apartment residents, which are mainly comprised of Somali Muslims, could have been a factor:
The “bystander effect” might explain why people didn’t help, psychologists say. Members of groups who witness a crime, versus one or two individuals, are less likely to intervene, because they don’t feel individually responsible for what’s happening, studies have found.
The culture of many people who live in the apartment building also could have influenced witnesses’ behavior, said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul. A large number of Afton View apartment residents are Somalis, who tend to mistrust and fear the police, Jamal said.
“The only system they know (from Somalia) is a military, totalitarian government that tortures and executes people,” he said. “Their understanding is a system that oppresses and that kills. People have no rights. They are used to keeping quiet and not saying anything.”
I call flat out BS on both excuses. If what Jamal is saying is true in that these people’s only understandings with authority were of a totalitarian government like Somalia’s, then it stands to reason that they came here to the US from Somalia in order to escape that way of life and make a better life here, because they know America is nothing like Somalia. But let’s assume for purposes of discussion that the Somalis in Afton View were too mistrustful of law enforcement to call and report the rape. According to the story, at least one person in the apartment building was ‘brave enough’ to call the police – and reported drunken behavior out in the hallway:
The surveillance video shows the 26-year-old victim lying in the second-floor hallway at 371 S. Winthrop St. as early as 1:20 a.m. Tuesday, according to the criminal complaint.
At one point, the woman knocked on a door, yelling for the occupants to call police. A man inside told police he didn’t open the door or look out, though he said he called police. Police found no record of the call, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in Ramsey County District Court.
Someone called 911 at 2:43 a.m. and reported two drunken people in the hallway. As a result, police classified the call as a disturbance and assigned it the department’s lowest priority number for response.
I don’t buy Jamal’s excuse-making for the people who stood by and did nothing for a minute. These people knew something horrible was happening. A woman was raped for nearly 90 minutes in the hallway in front of their apartment doors. And they did nothing.
And the thing about this is, there was no worry about the need for self-preservation here on the part of the do-nothing witnesses. None of these people were in any danger. They were in the safe confines of their apartment homes, within just a few steps of a telephone – some probably carrying a phone in hand.
The callous indifference of the apartment’s residents has people asking if they can be charged with a crime themselves:
Minnesota has a Good Samaritan law that makes it a petty misdemeanor not to give reasonable help to a person in danger of “grave physical harm.”
Walsh said it’s unlikely police would pursue charges against witnesses in this case because the burden of proof is so high — authorities would have to show that witnesses knew the woman was in extreme danger.
I don’t know why it would be so hard to prove – I think the evidence that she was in extreme danger is right there on that videotape, and only a complete idiot wouldn’t be able to see it.
This is a sorry story that puts a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of decent people who instinctively would have reacted differently. I’ve imagined before how I would react if I were in a situation where I was a witness to a crime in progress. There was recently a robbery at a drugstore up the street from where I live, a store I’ve visited a few times in the last several months. I thought to myself what would I have done had I been in the store at the time of the robbery. I went over in my mind the different scenarios in which I could help, like, if it appeared the robber wasnt’ carrying a gun, and I was far enough away that the robber didn’t see me, then maybe I could clip him or her in the knees to get him off balance enough to fall. If he was armed, it’d be a different story, and I’d likely call the cops. I never for once thought “if that happens when I’m in a store, I’ll run away and do nothing.”
There were police cars all over the Afton View neighborhood. One phone call reporting a rape would have made the call a high enough priority that at least one patrol car would have stopped by to investigate, perhaps not preventing the rape but the longevity of it. Everyone in that apartment complex who stood by silently while a woman was being brutally raped are accessories to that rape but will never see their day in court. That is unless something happens to one of them as a result of the inaction of some of their other neighbors.
Incidentally, Omar Jamal is the classic multiculturalist. Read more about this shady jerk here. That said, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about Ibrahim claiming the “my culture made me do it” defense, considering that he’s claiming that what people saw on video was a fight over car keys, not a rape. Yeah, like people typically fight over their car keys with their pants down in the middle of a hallway.