Heroism and Bystander Effect at Full Effect 

Many people are praised for their bravery and their heroism. A lot of people risk their lives to save or help others when they are in need. These people can be firefighters who risk their lives to save innocent people from the 911 attack or, an ordinary person that helps an old lady carrying heavy bags out of a store. Although there are many instances where people help others, there is as much, if not more instances where those same people avoid helping and/or getting involved. Such as, ignoring someone who fell and is groaning in pain or, walking past a young man who dropped all of his papers in the middle of the school hallway.

Whatever the case may be, majority of the time, people don’t want to be involved in anything that doesn’t affect them directly. This is called “The Bystander Effect.” In the early morning hours of March 13, 1964, Catherine Genovese; commonly known as “Kitty”, was murdered on the street in Kew Gardens, New York. The incident did not initially receive much attention until Martin Gansberg infamous article, ‘Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder, Didn’t Call the Police’, was published in the New York Times two weeks later.

Gansburg states “For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.” (Par.1) Genovese was returning home from her job as manager of a bar in Hollis. As she was walking from her parked car, Genovese noticed a man at the far end of the lot. Before she could get far away, she was grabbed by the man and let out a terrifying scream. ‘Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me!’ Lights in the upper apartments flickered on and windows slid open as neighbors heard the commotion.

One man yelled down for him to let go of her, scaring the attacker off as he left her but only to return shortly. The lights flickered off as Genovese tried to flee around the side of the apartment building, only to be stabbed again by the attacker. Urgently she screamed again, begging for any nearby help. Windows opened and lights once again turned on, making the assailant run to his car and drive away.

As a city bus passed by her, she struggled to find safety yet Genovese and her attacker met again. She had managed to crawl around the back of the building and even through a set of doors till he found her slumped by a set of stairs. He stabbed her one last time, this time ending her life for good. Police arrived soon after receiving a call from a man who was a fellow neighbor of Genovese. The neighbor explained he had contemplated calling the police for a while and had even called a friend for advice before actually calling 911. ‘ ‘I didn’t want to get involved,’ he sheepishly told police.” (Par. 21) This is a clear example of the bystander effect.

Many neighbors explained afterward as to why they hadn’t contacted the police. One couple stated they thought it was a “Lover’s quarrel” and also didn’t want to get involved. Others admitted to looking out the window and seeing the attack but when asked why they didn’t contact police, they simply stated “I don’t know.” It even states that one man said he was just too tired to get involved and went back to bed. It seemed police were stunned as to why people hadn’t contacted them sooner, the article stating “The police stressed how simple it would have been to have gotten in touch with them. ‘A phone call,’ said one of the detectives, ‘would have done it.’” As a continued my research about this strange murder, I came across John Darley and Bibb Latane, two psychologists that conducted the Bystander Effect through many experiements.

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