Rape at Denver Airport Makes Us Question Humanity

Sasha Brown-Worsham

In the same week, a 22-year-old woman was raped at the Denver Airport and janitors passing by did nothing to help her. On the other side of the country, a New Jersey man admitted that he sexually assaulted a woman during an overnight flight from Hong Kong in 2010, and again, no one did anything to help her until after the assault had ended.

The two incidents, though not directly related, do beg a simple question: 

What would you do if faced with this situation?

We would all love to believe that if we witnessed a rape or something horrible going on right in front of us that we would know and we would intervene and we would do something, but maybe we would be too confused about what we were seeing. Maybe we would be scared. Maybe we would just want to mind our own business.

In the first case, the victim had missed a connecting flight last Monday evening on her way to an interview for a job at a convent. She was forced by circumstance to spend the night at the airport. She said the suspect, Noel Alexander Bertrand, 26, started chatting with her in a restaurant, and then followed her and tried to kiss her. She said no. He then threw her onto the floor and violently raped her, according to her statement.

She claims that three janitors witnessed the attack that happened around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday in Concourse A and did nothing to help her. It was only later that airport security was called and she got help.

The other woman was asleep on an airplane last year when her seatmate digitally penetrated her. The witnesses only helped her after he had finished his assault and had cleaned himself off. Then they kicked her seat to alert her to the assault, which they had witnessed from the beginning.

So why would they not have helped her earlier? When they saw him touching her thigh?

It's a hard question. When do you intervene? If I saw a man on top of a woman violently assaulting her, I would hope that I would intervene or use my cellphone to call for help. But what if I were confused as to what I was seeing? On a plane, I could see it being fuzzy. Maybe the two people knew each other or maybe it was consensual. Who wants to be the jerk who starts alerting everyone to a consensual encounter?

The knee-jerk reaction is to freak out and certainly I am. I may never go through the Denver airport again. On the other hand, being a "witness" isn't always cut and dried.

What do you think you would do?


Image via Casey Serin/Flickr

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