Catching the train home last week, it was about 8pm, dark outside. I was sitting in the 2nd-to-front carriage. From my position, I could see through a glass window in to the front carriage. The front carriage is accessible from within the second carriage via a joining door.
In the front carriage, there was a man in a white shirt pacing back and forth. He was behaving demonstratively. Pacing from one end of the carriage to the other. His facial expression didn’t look too friendly. He caught my attention, and I had a clear sight of him, even though I wasn’t in his carriage. I should note at this point the train was probably 2/3rds full - only one in three seats were empty.
As the train pulled away from one of the stops, the man in white shirt approached a seated commuter - who I did not have a clear line of sight to - and started punching him repeatedly. Whack whack whack… I would estimate I witnessed at least 7 or 8 punches, all aimed at the head area of the seated passenger, who was defending him/herself with raised arms. I can not be sure if any words were exchanged between the pair prior. I can’t be sure if the pair even knew each other. I assume it was a random attack.
None of the people in the front carriage seemed to react. Some looked away, others looked towards the situation but remained in their place. I can’t be sure if anyone said anything - it’s not possible to hear what’s going on in an adjacent carriage. All I can be sure of is that nobody approached either party while the assault was taking place.
At this point, I was switching between operating on instinct, and trying to think what I should be doing. I was watching others in the front carriage (there must have been at least 30 people in that carriage) waiting for someone - anyone - to move in and do… something. But what? Nobody moved. Those in the front carriage were more privy to the events that preceded the assault. Perhaps if someone moved in to help the person being assaulted, that would have acted as a kind of mental “trigger” for me to get up and also help.
But nobody moved.
The assaulter got off the train at the next stop. I couldn’t see what became of the person who was assaulted. There were plenty of people around him/her. Again I made an assumption that there were enough people in that carriage to make sure the person was ok – especially now that the assaulter had alighted.
When I got home, I contacted the train operator through their website and reported the incident with full descriptions (date/time/carriage etc). The trains in my city all have CCTV cameras installed on every carriage.
What should I have done in this situation? Chuck Norris’d my way in to the carriage and confronted the assaulter? Should I have just run in to the carriage and called out to the man, pleading him to stop what he was doing? Should I just assume (as I think I did) that with plenty of people already in the front carriage, they are best placed to be the first responders, and not me?
I’m uneasy about my lack of reaction. In hindsight, I am still not sure what I should have or could have done.
FYI I am 30 years old, male.