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My Thoughts

Don’t be just another bystander


I recently read the story of Kitty Genovese, an American woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Kew Gardens, New York, on March 13, 1964. The story became quite big after it was reported that at least 38 people heard/saw/knew of the attack going on and did nothing about it. Later, other reports found flaws in this initial investigation saying the number of bystanders was much smaller.

Whether the number of witnesses that did nothing to help a woman in need is small or big is besides the point. Over the years, around the world, in thousands of cases we always see people who fail to help/report/get involved in attacks, domestic violence incidents, beatings, any kind or abuse or even step in to offer assistance to people lying on the floor somewhere.

Many social experiments have unfortunately reached the same conclusion. ‘The apparent lack of reaction by numerous neighbors purported to have watched the scene or to have heard Genovese’s cries for help, although erroneously reported, prompted research into diffusion of responsibility and the bystander effect.

Social psychologists John M. Darley and Bibb Latané started this line of research, showing that contrary to common expectations, larger numbers of bystanders decrease the likelihood that someone will step forward and help a victim. The reasons include the fact that onlookers see that others are not helping either, that onlookers believe others will know better how to help, and that onlookers feel uncertain about helping while others are watching.

The reasons could be many, the end result remains the same: someone might be getting hurt or even dying and there is a high chance they could survive if us, the witnesses DO something about it. 

Years after the murder, in December 28, 1974, ’25-year-old Sandra Zahler was beaten to death early Christmas morning in an apartment within a building that overlooked the site of the Genovese attack. Neighbors again said they heard screams and “fierce struggles” but did nothing‘.

Next time you hear/see/know of someone screaming for help, someone getting beaten up, a girl being repeatedly slapped and pushed in the street, a baby/dog locked unattended in a car, someone being chased, someone lying helpless on the floor, someone that looks like he/she needs help/fainting/in pain/struggling…any human being that really needs help….. DON’T just be another bystander.

Make sure you and whoever is with you is safe and then try to DO something about it. Remember that this could have been your son, daughter, husband, wife, mother, relative, friend. 

Till next time x

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