Moral Conscience Sides with Rape Victim Maria

mariaMeet Maria. She was brutally attacked in full view of a New York City subway clerk. Then, she was forcibly dragged down the steps onto a deserted platform where she was raped and raped again, the assailant not stopping even when a subway trained pulled into the station.

The horror occurred July 7, 2004, two days before the young woman’s 22nd birthday. Maria (doesn’t want her full name released) sued the MTA because its workers did not do more to help her during the attack. She has since suffered years of constant nightmares, bouts of depression and anxiety. Now, a judge has ruled that the two transit workers (including a train conductor who also saw the attack) had no obligation to do anything to help her other than to signal their superiors that police were needed at the station.

Maybe by the letter of the law, those two workers didn’t need to do anything more, but their moral duty certainly required them to do more. At least, I would hope so.

Imagine, a young woman is screaming and running up the stairs and makes direct eye contact with you, pleading for help, then a man catches her from behind in a bear hug, dragging her back down the stairs. Is there any ambiguity there? What is your moral responsibility?

Okay, maybe you are afraid and want to stay behind the window screen, but why not at least get on the intercom and try to help? Inform the assailant that the police is on their way. Do something more to help.

She screamed all the way down the stairs. In fact, she was crying and screaming so loud, the assailant lifted her over the tracks in a 45 degree angle, threatening to drop her, to get her to stop. Are those cries still haunting that worker? 

Laws are legal written rules to govern our society. It’s based on literal words that are interpreted by judges. Moral rights and wrongs are more intuitive to most of us. We know instinctively what our moral duty is. These transit workers know, as they did then, what was the right thing to do, or not to do.  Our society knows that their inaction was cowardice and wrong. If you read the comments section to this story, that’s clear. I trust the moral conscience of our society more than a legalistic judge in this instance.

Maria says she has forgiven the assiliant, who has never been found. But the transit workers, she cannot forgive.  “Unfortunately, the man who assaulted me was obviously mentally ill and psychotic,” she said. “He probably had no basis of reality. He didn’t have a conscience, but the transit worker did. He was a human being capable of feeling emotions as I was. I just felt that it was so coldhearted and just completely abominable to basically look the other way.”

Read the original story here (with video from the interview with Today’s Meredith Vieira). Maria couldn’t finish her graduate studies at NYU due to the trauma.

Some will think Maria is being opportunistic by taking her story public. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s tremendously courageous for her to take her story public, and in doing so, she’s making sure that the societal moral conscience is being better defined through public opinion, even if our court of law sees it otherwise.