A 26-year-old man was charged Thursday for allegedly raping and beating a woman in an apartment hallway -- an incident apparently witnessed by several people who did nothing, police say, to help the alleged victim.
Charged with two counts of rape, Rage Ibrahim turned himself in to Ramsey County authorities Thursday afternoon.
"Ibrahim is innocent of rape he said," says Omar Jamal with the Somali Justice Center, speaking on behalf of Ibrahim
It all started Tuesday morning at a Saint Paul apartment complex. According to the criminal complaint, police responded to a call of intoxicated people in the hallway. When they arrived, they found Ibrahim and a 26-year-old woman, both naked from the waist down. The woman told police she was drugged and raped. Police say the alleged attack was captured by the building's security camera.
"It shows the suspect striking the victim," says St. Paul Police spokesperson Tom Walsh.
And police say the tape also shows something else - as many as ten people who saw the alleged attack, but did nothing.
"They simply walked down the hall and turned back…ducked back into their doorway," says Walsh.
Police say the alleged assault lasted 30 minutes and no attempt was made to help the woman and there was no immediate call to 911.
"Clearly people observed what was going on, but for whatever reason chose not to call police," says Walsh.
Psychologists say the reason may be found in the human thought process. It's called the bystander effect. John Tauer teaches social psychology at the University of St. Thomas.
"The more bystanders that are around, the less likely any one is going to help. If 50 people are in a crowd, each one feels little responsibility," says Tauer.
And often times Tauer says, people may be afraid to step in or are confused about what they've seen.
"People look to others for cues and they say is this an emergency? Now, by all accounts it seems that was pretty clear, yet as people look around in these situations and you see other people poking their heads out, you sort of think well, if he or she is not coming out of their apartment, maybe it’s not an emergency," says Tauer.
Professor Tauer says psychologists have studied this behavior for years. They say it's not an unusual human response.
Psychologists often point to the case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered outside her New York apartment in 1964. More than 30 people watched it happen, but no one stepped in or called for help right away.
In the Saint Paul case, police say when someone finally called them no one said anything about a rape in progress.
The call came in as a disturbance, intoxicated people in the hallway. That kind of call is a lower police priority than calls about violent crime.
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