You get on the subway to visit you boyfriend. You sit down with your journal to do some writing while listening to your headphones. You’re minding your own business when all of a sudden you feel a man touching your feet. You try to inch away but the man moves closer. The subway car is empty and you’ve missed your stop.
You jump out of the train on the next stop and begin to run up the stairs. You hear and feel the same man running behind you. As you reach the top of the stairs the man grabs you from behind and begins to pull you down. As you struggle and yell for help you catch a glimpse of the token booth clerk and think you are saved.
You are wrong. The clerk does not leave his booth and the man pulls you down the stairs where he rapes and terrorizes you by holding your body over the train tracks, your neck in his hands. Soon after a train approaches and again you think that at last you will be saved but the conductor passes you by. After he’s finished with you the attacker gets away and to this day he has yet to be found.
This is a frightening ordeal and unfortunately a true story. The woman, Maria Besedin, 25, was just shy of 22 when she was attacked in a Queens subway station in 2005, an attack that could have been prevented. Both the token booth clerk and subway conductor who witnessed the rape only alerted central command when they heard and saw the victim yelling for help.
Following the attack, Besedin filed a suit against the MTA and the two workers who did not step in to stop the rape. Her lawyers argued that the two men did nothing to save her, but last week a judge threw out her suit ruling that by pressing the emergency button to notify command control both men were following work rules and had no responsibility to intervene further.
The employees argued that they had no idea whether the rapist was armed, but they could have done more to help Besedin. What about dialing 911 or calling the nearest police station? If simply pressing an emergency buttons is all the MTA rules call for in such a situation then they need to re-write the rules!
“I’m honestly still in shock,” Besedin said of the ruling. “It’s so hard for me to process this whole thing because I just really wanted everyone out there to be safe, to never have to experience anything like I did.”
Her lawyers are disappointed as well and plan to file an appeal.
One of her lawyers, Marc Albert, called the decision “offensive,” saying it gives “blanket immunity” for transit workers to ignore passengers in danger. “Simply pressing the button is enough,” Albert said. “God forbid citizens are put in a position where municipal workers are not required to act and it leads to harm — they are left out in the cold.”
Today, nearly four years later, Besedin continues to suffer flashbacks from her nightmare subway attack. I can only hope that with the appeal justice will be served for Besedin and all NYC women subway riders.
Photo by Oliver Mallich used under a Creative Commons license.