Police said bystanders saw a rape on the train but failed to stop it. The DA now says that didn't happen.

For several days now, news outlets across the country have reported updates about an alleged rape that took place last week on a train car outside of Philadelphia. Police said other riders had witnessed the attack but not intervened, with some even filming the incident.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said that claim - that train riders callously ignored a violent crime as it unfolded before their eyes - is "simply not true."

"There is a narrative out there that people sat on the El train and watched this transpire and took videos of it for their own gratification. . . . It did not happen," Stollsteimer said.

The alleged sexual assault took place on Oct. 13 after 9 p.m. According to investigators, surveillance footage showed a man getting onto the train around 9:15 and harassing the victim for about 40 minutes before ripping off her pants and raping her.

Officers intervened around 10 p.m. after being contacted by an employee of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). Police charged 35-year-old Fiston M. Ngoy with rape, aggravated indecent assault and nine other criminal charges related to the assault. He is due back in court on Monday.

Over the weekend, Upper Darby Township Police Department Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt and SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch had told news outlets that bystanders watched what happened but took no action. Both expressed dismay.

"I don't know where we are in society that people can't help other people out in a time of need," Bernhardt said. "If you see something horrendous like this horrible incident, you have to do something, you have to intervene."

"If somebody who witnessed this had called 911, it's possible that we would have been able to intervene even sooner," Busch said.

But on Thursday, Stollsteimer said there was no evidence to suggest any of the riders understood what was taking place.

"This is the El, guys - we've all ridden it. People get off and on at every single stop. That doesn't mean when they get on and they see people interacting that they know a rape is occurring," he said at the news conference. Stollsteimer added that while at least two people had filmed portions of the encounter, one of them had shared the video with police, contributing to the investigation.

One reporter pushed back at Stollsteimer's claim that the media was to blame for the narrative of the indifferent bystanders, pointing out that it was police who had provided those statements.

"You're saying it's the media's narrative, but if I'm not mistaken, the narrative comes from the [police] superintendent making statements about . . ."

Stollsteimer interrupted and seemed to implicate train authority personnel: "No, it's not from the superintendent . . . I think you're really thinking of SEPTA officials."

Earlier in the week, Bernhardt had suggested that the witnesses could be criminally charged for failing to intervene. On Thursday, the district attorney said there is no law in Pennsylvania that would allow for such charges, adding that he feared witnesses may have been scared off by that suggestion. Stollsteimer encouraged riders who saw the incident to come forward and share that information with police.

"We don't ever arrest witnesses," he insisted.

Perhaps the most well-known case of witnesses purportedly failing to report a crime took place in New York City. Many know Kitty Genovese as the woman whose neighbors ignored her screams as she was stabbed to death in 1964. The New York Times reported that more than three dozen "respectable, law-abiding citizens" watched or heard the attack but said not one called police before Genovese died.

That narrative - which became synonymous with the so-called "bystander effect" - was not the whole story. In reality, only a few people were able to see what was happening, and some of Genovese's neighbors did call police. One rushed to her side and held her as she died.

In the vast majority of crimes that take place in public, bystanders do intervene, Elizabeth Jeglic, a researcher on sexual violence prevention at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Associated Press this week.

In Pennsylvania, Stollsteimer defended the people of Delaware County and said he believed residents there would come to the aid of someone clearly being victimized.

"People in this region are not, in my experience, so inhuman and, you know, callous human beings that they're going to just sit there and just watch this happen," he said.