Twin Cities residents now have to share a moment of shame with New York City. Forty years ago, Kitty Genovese screamed for help when being murdered, and her Big Apple neighbors didn't lift a finger to help her -- not even to dial the phone to call the police. Yesterday, police in St. Paul say that at least 10 people saw a sexual assault take place in their hallway but did nothing to stop it:
Although police say as many as 10 people witnessed a sexual assault in a St. Paul hallway, the suspect said he has no memory of what happened.
Rage Ibrahim, 25, said he blacked out from drinking too much alcohol. But he said he wouldn't have committed rape. ...
Surveillance video from a Highwood-area apartment hallway makes it clear that a sexual assault happened Tuesday, St. Paul police Cmdr. Shari Gray said.
Prosecutors charged Ibrahim, of St. Paul, on Thursday with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
From five to 10 people peeked out of their apartment doors to see what was happening. Some started walking down the hallway but retreated after witnessing the assault, Gray said, based on surveillance video she saw. None stopped the assault, she said.
Not only did the sexual assault take place in the hallway, where the neighbors could hear the screams and pleas for help, but the security camera video shows at least ten people watching the assault and doing nothing about it. One man claims he called the police when the woman beat on his door for rescue, prior to the assault, but the police say they have no record of his call. Someone else called to complain about two drunken people in the hallway, which put the complaint at the lowest response priority for the police. They arrive 40 minutes afterwards to find out that the woman had been sexually assaulted.
Why didn't the neighbors do anything, except the one who complained about drunken clamor? The Pioneer Press notes that the residents in this apartment building are Somalis. Omar Jamal, from the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, says Somalis are used to mistrusting the police and are conditioned to say nothing. Could it also be related to their religious upbringing, which tends to blame women for sexual assaults? It makes at least as much sense as the Somali community fleeing halfway around the world to find freedom, then believing they're living in a police state after living here for a while.
Ahmed beat his wife so badly last summer in her St. Paul apartment that she is in a prison of her own: She has permanent brain damage and scars. She will never be able to care for her 17-month-old son because she will never be able to care for herself.
Advocates and law enforcement authorities say domestic violence often is a taboo topic in the male-dominated Somali community. Women are strongly discouraged from reporting it, said Omar Jamal of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center.
There is a "deep mistrust in the system," he said. "This case created bad disagreement in the community. Most of the men didn't like that the women [took the case] this far."
It's the women who created the "bad disagreement" by insisting that a man who literally beat his wife senseless got prosecuted for the crime. It goes a long way to understanding why Rage Ibrahim could rape a woman in a hallway while fellow Somalis strolled past and never worried about being caught or even challenged. People like Omar Jamal have his back, and so do Rage's neighbors.
UPDATE: It should be noted that Genovese's neighbors didn't have to be Muslims or immigrants to ignore her 40 years ago.
UPDATE II: I'm going to reiterate what I wrote in the comments -- if Omar Jamal wants to argue that their cultural development keeps Somalis from protecting women from being raped in hallways or even reporting it to the police, then he has made the Somali culture the point of argument, not me.
All I'm saying is that if Somalis in St Paul are culturally inclined to ignore rapes occurring right before their eyes, which part of that culture is more likely to be the issue here? Somehow I doubt it's the police in Somalia.