There is much praise for good Samaritans.
These strangers often put their own lives at risk trying to save others from peril.
Sometimes, the news media or the police recognize these heroic efforts, but quite often good Samaritans disappear without anyone ever knowing their names.
In 2013, two unidentified good Samaritans foiled a rape attempt near a CTA Orange Line station by coming to the aid of an 18-year-old woman who was thrown to the ground in the attack.
Last week, we saw a very different response to a situation in which it was clear someone was in desperate need of help. A young woman riding a CTA Red Line train alone in the early hours of the morning was trying to fight off a rapist when the train pulled into the North/Clybourn stop, and a man got on.
According to the woman, he attacked her, pulling down her pants and underwear. She was screaming for help when the stranger stumbled onto the scene.
But instead of trying to make the attacker stop, or pushing the emergency call button, or even dialing 911, the man turned around and left the train.
There’s no way to know what was going through the guy’s head when he bolted.
Maybe he wasn’t sure what he was seeing, or was plugged into his play-list and couldn’t hear a thing.
Or maybe he was just too cowardly to confront a rapist in an empty train car.
Needless to say, a lot of people are holding the unidentified man in contempt — including the young woman who was sexually assaulted.
Michael Sparks was arrested a day later and is being held on $1 million bail in the attack on the L.
As bizarre as this incident sounds, something similar happened in Toledo, Ohio, in 2010. A 15-year-old was accused of raping a 26-year-old autistic woman in broad daylight, on a public street, in plain view. Although four people witnessed the rape, no one stopped it. They all had excuses about why they didn’t get involved.
Though most of us would like to believe our inner hero would kick in if we saw someone being assaulted on the CTA, that’s hardly the case. A lot of people would rather just catch the next train.
What happened to this young woman should make other young women think twice about sitting in an empty L car during early morning hours.
Although violent crime on the CTA has dropped in recent years, and the system has nearly 3,000 surveillance cameras, don’t assume you’re safe.
Surveillance cameras are only good after the fact.
The cameras didn’t stop a teenager from sexually assaulting and robbing a 41-year-old woman aboard an otherwise empty CTA Blue Line car just last month.
If the boy noticed the surveillance camera, it apparently didn’t faze him. He groped, beat and sexually assaulted the woman. The victim was only able to push the emergency button after her assailant left the train.
DeShawn Isabelle, 15,has been charged as an adult and is also being held on $1 million bail.
During off-peak hours, commuters riding in empty L cars are taking a huge risk.
The only sure way to reduce that risk is for security officers to patrol the trains during the hours when ridership is scarce.
We’d all like to see ourselves as good Samaritans. Truth is, too many of us are not.