120. FFS, Will Somebody Call 9-1-1!
You may have heard this horrendous story from earlier this month. A woman was raped by a stranger on a commuter train in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Other riders were there. They witnessed it. Some of them even recorded videos of it happening with their cell phones. Yet nobody - not a single witness - called for help or tried to intervene.
There were surveillance videos on the train that recorded the rape. And recorded the other passengers not helping.
I’m beyond appalled. Far beyond.
The Kitty Legacy
On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered while walking into her apartment building in New York City. She was 28 years old. She had been stabbed and raped over a period of 30 minutes, screaming for help. She was left for dead.
Here’s the important thing about that incident: there were 38 people - all neighbors of hers - who witnessed the violence from their apartments and heard Kitty screaming. None of those people - not a single one - called for help or made the slightest effort to save her. One witness even admitted that he “rushed to turn up his radio so he wouldn’t hear the woman’s screams”.
Horrifying right? You wouldn’t do it, right?
Well then tell me how it keeps happening again and again - including just a couple of weeks ago on a Philadelphia train.
The Innocent Bystander is not Innocent
Driven by the horror of Kitty’s murder, two social psychologists in 1968 demonstrated and popularized the idea of the Bystander Effect.
The Bystander Effect states that a person is less likely to offer help to a victim when there are other people present.
There are a variety of factors involved in this. Some people do nothing and hide under the assumption that other witnesses will take action. Other witnesses do nothing because they don’t want to be the first in a group to call for help.
Let’s be clear, there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. If you watch a horrendous act happening towards another and you do nothing, you are guilty by omission.
Originally when I published this piece I segued into a rant about how the Bystander Effect also occurs in the workplace. After publishing the article I came to terms with the fact that culture and workplace behavior was not my intent when I started writing this. I just thought that’s what y’all wanted to hear. But sometimes I just feel like screaming at injustice, so sometimes that’s what you’re going to get from me. If you’re interested in how the Bystander Effect occurs in the workplace, you can click that link.
The reason I wrote about the horrendous incident in Philadelphia and the horror of Kitty Genovese, is because it makes me sick that these things happen in our society. Physically sick.
I’m sick of people not taking responsibility.
I’m sick of people justifying inaction.
I’m sick of people claiming that they aren’t the ones accountable.
WE ARE ALL ACCOUNTABLE.
The great Haile Selassie put it best when he said
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
Everyone who witnesses horrendous behavior and does nothing is just as guilty as those committing the behavior.
So it’s time we pull up our big kids underpants and step up to the grown-up table. It’s time we risked our comfort to support victims - it’s time we at least try to triumph over evil when we see it in action.
After all, it’s what you’d want people to do for you if you were the one screaming for help.
“She never felt ready but she was brave and the universe responds to brave."
- Rebecca Ray
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