A woman was raped on the London Underground in front of other passengers. Why did no one intervene?

A woman was raped on the London Underground in front of other passengers. Why did no one intervene?

A shocking case hit the news today, sparking outrage on social media and igniting conversations around the bystander effect and the safety of women in public spaces. Ryan Johnston, 37, was sentenced to nine years for raping a woman, 20, as she slept on a busy morning London Underground service.

The attack happened on the Piccadilly Line in front of horrified passengers, including a French tourist and his 11-year-old son, who reported it to the police. The French national was flown to the UK to testify at the trial, where he helped rebut Johnston’s claims he knew the complainant and she had consented, the CPS said.

The same day, Ryan Johnston had chased two women to their home after they noticed him masturbating while looking through the window outside a house near Bounds Green Underground station at around 5am on 23 February 2020, according to the British Transport Police (BTP). He banged on their door and put his hand through the letterbox after the women managed to get inside safely – before he eventually left. He then boarded a Piccadilly Line train at Heathrow Terminal Five around three hours later, where he approached a young woman who was asleep, the BTP said.

Johnston sexually assaulted and then raped the 20-year-old – who was returning home from an evening out with friends – in front of other passengers.

Johnston was arrested at HMP Brixton (where he was serving time for burglary) in December 2022, after a BTP review of historic rape cases led to his identification. He was charged with rape, attempted rape and two counts of sexual assault, while he was also charged with outraging public decency in relation to another complainant.

Senior investigating officer, detective inspector Paul Attwell of the BTP’s major, serious and organised crime unit, said: “Johnston’s brazen attack in front of witnesses highlights his lack of shame or remorse for his actions, something which continued throughout his trial.

“I am thankful his violence and despicable actions have been recognised by the guilty verdicts and significant sentence.

“His depraved actions will have a life-long impact on the victim and those who witnessed this.

“I am thankful for their bravery throughout this investigation. I hope they can now find some comfort in the fact justice has been served.”

Thousands have taken to social media in shock, asking how witnesses stood by and did not intervene. “Nobody did anything. Multiple people saw a woman being raped in public and nobody did anything. Nobody helped her. Women are not safe anywhere,” tweeted one user in reaction to the now-viral Sky News article. The evidence available suggests that only the French man reported the crime to the police and intervened in any way.

Another X user said, “Bystanderism is so bad in London, but I never thought it could be this bad in such a confined space. We all have a responsibility to do something if we see something terribly wrong happening. You are accountable for your inaction.”

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