Editor’s note: This editorial was written before the woman recanted her report of being raped.

One of the many advantages of life in Portland – the chance to walk, run or bike outdoors, taking in amazing scenery – was clouded this week by a report that a woman was sexually assaulted in broad daylight while walking on the popular Back Cove Trail.

Even as the details of this horrific attack emerge, however, there is reason to take heart. During the Back Cove incident, two passers-by saw that something wasn’t right and called to the victim and the suspect, prompting the assailant to run away. The quick thinking of these two onlookers should inspire all of us to consider what we’d do in a similar situation and prepare ourselves to take action.

Reported rapes are relatively rare in Portland, but that shouldn’t encourage complacency. For one thing, the number of rapes reported this year – 18 – is on track to exceed the 21 cases in all of 2014. For another, federal researchers have found that nearly two-thirds of all sexual assaults aren’t even reported to law enforcement.

In response to the Back Cove rape, Portland police are stepping up patrols around and on the trail and reminding the public of safety measures, such as walking in groups, carrying cellphones and reporting suspicious activity. In short, they’re doing what they should be doing in response to a public safety threat. And these are all sound recommendations.

But although they’re deeply unsettling, cases like this – in which the victim is attacked by a stranger – aren’t the norm. In fact, according to federal statistics, women are far more likely to be raped by someone they know.

Regardless of the type of incident, however, bystanders can play a role in stopping a rape in progress or preventing it altogether, by doing things such as:

 Calling 911.

Asking whether everything’s all right, as police say that the witnesses at Back Cove did.

“Accidentally” spilling a drink on an aggressor at a college party who’s not taking the hint that his attentions aren’t welcome.

Checking out the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault website (mecasa.org) for other suggestions and resources.

We shouldn’t put ourselves in harm’s way, but we also shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to help for fear of overreacting. Preventing and responding to sexual assault is a community endeavor, and we’re all responsible for putting predators on notice that they will be held accountable for their actions.