A couple of weeks ago my husband heard someone calling for help. An elderly woman was standing at her door looking distressed and people were walking past her, busily on their way to work. What the woman wanted was someone to open her medication for her – she invited my husband in to her home and he declined, but he opened her meds and spent enough time talking with her to determine that she wasn’t in immediate danger. Then he told a Community Police Officer about the woman, and who knows, some kind of care might be put in place before it gets too cold.
The Bystander Effect is a part of our psychology that allows us to ignore something when we’re surrounded by other people. The phenomenon was named after the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman who staggered around screaming during a prolonged attack, all the while being watched by her neighbours. Kitty was repeatedly stabbed and as she lay dying, raped. One woman came out to comfort her as she died.
Some of the neighbours called the police to ‘A Disturbance’. One shouted from his doorway to “Leave that girl alone.” What we learned from this miserable event is that the more of us who witness something happening, the less likely anyone is to do anything about it. We think we’re less qualified than some mythical other person who should step in; we wait for permission; we don’t want to get involved.
The body of Charlotte Bevan has been found at the bottom of the Avon Gorge. The body of her baby has yet to be discovered.
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