Wednesday, 14 September 2011

More on the Bystander Effect...

LAST month I presented an article called Kitty Genovese and Me. It detailed the study of a murder in New York in 1964 where a young lady was stabbed to death in front of a bunch of people and it was believed no one did anything. Some studies were done about it and it was named Genovese Syndrome after the murder. These days it's more commonly known as The Bystander Effect. 

A while back I noticed the FBI had done a recent study on it and put it on several sights. Recently in my peer group there has been a lot of discussion about it and people wondering what they needed to do and when to act. Some still don't understand the psychology and what it really means to act and what it says when you’re just a bystander. Even though we covered pretty much the whole thing in the original article I feel a follow up is needed. Watch the below videos before we continue.


These are some of the more well known incidents as of late. I want to draw your attention to the top video. This is a great video to accompany the first article. It breaks down exactly what we talked about towards the end of that article though some of the terms may have been slightly different. Everyone wants to pass the buck and conform to the crowd. Everyone thinks someone else will act (diffusion of responsibility) but if one person acts it breaks "The Effect" and others help as well. It is my belief that you need to be that one person that helps. This is a blog for martial artists. We didn't spend all those years of training to do nothing with it. If you have the ability to make a difference then you should be compelled to make a difference. The biggest enemy of the bystander effect is the knowledge of it. If you know about it then you should not fall victim to it. You should know that others won't act and that you should act

On another note in that video you can see that when people think that person is a member of their peer group they feel compelled to act. I think it took someone six seconds. In the first article we called this Biker Mentality because that article dealt more with violent attacks and the idea that if you fight one biker you have to fight them all. If a person is in their group they will help. However it isn't always a violent event as we've seen. Someone could be sick or injured and need help. The bystander effect applies just as much if not more to these situations. Many states have followed suit of countries like Canada and Australia and adopted Good Samaritan Laws. These are laws that protect people from being sued if they help someone in good faith and something goes wrong with it. Other states are even going further and looking at passage of Duty to Rescue Laws which make it a misdemeanour to not intervene when you see someone needing assistance and do nothing. States realise they have to do this because they realise that people today are morally bankrupt and it must be done

If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem – Malcolm X

I believe the above statement to be true. I can understand fear. Fear is something we all deal with and there are a lot of things that can go wrong. However, courage is not the absence of fear it is the overcoming of fear. Giving into fear is called being a coward. I would rather die like a warrior than live like a coward any day. If you witness someone in the process of being killed and you do nothing then in my eyes you’re just as responsible as the murderer. If someone is injured and lying on the ground begging for help in a public place and you don't know first aid then call a 911[999 in UK] and stay with them until help arrives. I believe being a bystander is one of the worst things you can be, especially if you have the ability to help them.

Are we talking about two people arguing and just jumping up into someone's business? Of course not, let's get a little more specific now and put this in the right context:

If you witness a mugging you need to understand that money and belongings can be replaced. This may not be a life or death situation. If you feel that you have to do something then draw attention to the mugging keep a safe distance and call them out. These guys just want to get the money and run quickly. If you’re pointing out the mugging and yelling they may just run off. You don't want to just run in on someone with a weapon. Unfortunately in one of the videos above a man found that out the hard way. Then, when he was lying there and dying the Bystander Effect took effect in a disgusting display. As I said before, people are morally bankrupt and you cannot depend on them. That video made me sick.

You see a married couple arguing. Don't just get into that as they will more than likely turn on you. If anything, if they are getting loud tell them to quieten down then maybe they'll actually stop arguing. There are laws about public disturbances you know. However, if one puts their hands on the other I believe you should intervene to stop an assault. Just don't personalise it.

Two drunks get in a fight at a bar. They usually have bouncers that break that stuff up. However if they don't and the fight gets out of hand with one getting the upper hand in a big way where a serious injury may take place then yes intervene. As we have learned in the above videos if you break the cycle you'll most likely have help once you do intervene in that type of a situation. Unfortunately not always, but in a more social setting like that I'd bet on that help if it was me (I was a bouncer for years I've seen hundreds of those situations).

A guy with a broken arm falls by himself in a hallway and can't get up and you’re a woman he asks for help.

Now those of you on your game will know I picked this specific scenario on purpose. In an above paragraph I talked about assisting someone who was injured in a public place like the one demonstrated in the first video. As some of us know serial killer Ted Bundy used this exact scenario to lure women into the hallway to attack them. In a private closed off area like that you should just ask them to be calm while you go and get help, then get help quickly. Not everyone who falls in a hallway is a serial killer faking it. If you’re a guy you can save face by saying you have a bad back or some crap like that later on, just don't go into that hallway alone. Since there wasn't a crowd this isn't really the Bystander Effect but some critics will try to take it out of context and make it that way.

The point is that in these situations there are things that you can do. Maybe you’d handle it slightly differently but at least you’d have helped resolve the situation in a reasonable way.

There was an incident not too long ago on Facebook where a girl posted that she was going to kill herself. Her friends posted back but no one went over there to stop her and she committed suicide shortly after. It's a myth by the way that when people are vocal about suicide that it means they just want attention and won't do it. Once again, that is a myth. In that situation just someone going over there to talk to her may have saved her life. This is what I'm talking about. This is the more common form of the bystander effect. We talk about more violent events because that is the subject matter of the blog but this is the more common form.

It is something anyone can help with. Don't stand by while someone dies. To do so says negative things about our society and you. If you stand by while someone dies you'll stand by during anything. We can be better than this and our society can be better. Asking an entire society to change overnight is not realistic. However asking an individual to make a difference is not and a society is made up of individuals. People who stand up for those that need us shouldn't be the exception they should be the rule.

Some say the police tell you not to get involved. The ones that tell you that only say that for liability reasons it has nothing to do with it being the right or wrong thing to do. If it was wrong to do it then states wouldn't be looking at passing duty to rescue laws making it a misdemeanour not to do it. We can make a difference and you can make a difference if you are reading this. I'd also recommend reading the original article if you have not done so. As you may have read in other articles like Beware of the Fallout and The Double Edged Sword of Empathy, I'm not a bystander and I don't think you should be one either. Links for the mentioned articles will be provided at the bottom of this one. As I said in the first article you now know about the bystander effect. There is no excuse


Now be somebody and make a difference! Thank you for your time.

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