The Genovese Syndrome - or "Bystander Effect."I vividly remember hearing a story told by my sociology professor in college about the assault of a young woman (Kitty Genovese). The event was witnessed by a large number of people in New York City, yet not one of them made a move to intervene or call the police. I was appalled.
Secretly, though, I also worried. In a similar situation would I be like those people, or would I have the guts and morality to do what was right?''
Put to the test.A few months ago, I was put to the test. My husband and I had flown many miles from home
to watch our daughter swim in her college championship swim meet. On the last night of the meet, a team dinner was held at a restaurant. We found a parking lot several blocks away.
He punched her!My husband got out of the rental car and walked over to the ticket machine. While he was buying the parking ticket, I glanced out the back window of the car just as a man walked across the street to a woman. He grabbed her, drew back his fist, and punched her! She broke free, and started to hurry away holding her purse tight against her chest. He following her.
I am ashamed to say, for a micro split-second I wondered, “Is this something I want us to get involved in? I could just pretend I didn’t see it.” I could never have lived with myself had that been my choice. Fortunately, I was instantly ashamed of that thought and squelched it. I realized that I had to act, but wasn't quite sure what to do!
I was opening the car door to run out and help her, when I realized that probably wasn't smart or safe. Instead, I starting honking the car horn repeatedly, hoping it would scare the man off and draw the attention of any bystanders. It was a nice thought, but no one was nearby but us. The horn got my husband’s attention, and I waved frantically for him to come back to the car. Once he ran over I explained what I saw, and suggested we drive towards the street. He started the car while telling me to call 911. (Why didn't I think of that?!) When we pulled out to where we could see the man and woman, it looked like they had separated and she had gotten away.
Conversation with 911.The 911 operator quickly answered the phone. As we were reporting the incident, we had to pull off the road and run on foot up the sidewalk to where we could see the street names. As we did, we noticed that the man had circled back and was with the woman again, further down the street. Just as we saw them once more, he hustled her into an apartment building. My husband and I both got the impression that they knew each other, on some level. We told the police all the information we had, and they said a patrol car would be there soon to check the situation out.
With nothing more left that we could do, we re-parked our car in the parking lot, and retrieved my husband’s credit card from the ticket machine! We arrived at the team dinner very late, and it took me a while to settle in and enjoy the event.
I still worry for her.I kept thinking of that poor woman and wondering if she was safe. At least my conscience was clear; we really had done all that we could to help her. But, I still worried, and hoped she was okay.
Have you ever witnessed a crime or called 911?
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