The bystander effect or Genovese syndrome denotes a scenario where a victim in an emergency situation is not offered any help by the surrounding individuals, even though they are aware that the victim needs help. The presence of other bystanders greatly reduces the likelihood of intervention. The more bystanders present, the less likely any one of them will assume responsibility for taking action to help the victim. The bystander effect happens quite often independently of culture, gender or age and it is very unfortunate as if it didn’t happen, lives could be saved, and crimes could be avoided. The bystander effect could happen for three main reasons which are the pluralistic ignorance, the social inhibition, and the diffusion of responsibility.
The bystander effect also got the name Genovese syndrome because of a famous case that happened in New York City involving Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese. Ms. Genovese was an ordinary 28 year old, who was brutally murdered on March 13, 1964. She was on her way back home from work when a man attacked her. The attacker chased and stabbed her a few times while she screamed for help. Although there were 38 residents in her building that could hear her, nobody called the police or went downstairs to help her. Her neighbors did very little to save her. A man watching the scene, slid opens his window and yelled at the attacker “Hey! Let that girl alone!!” The attacker heard it and immediately walked away. That was the only help she got and unfortunately that was not enough to save her life. The victim with several wounds struggled to stay conscious and within five minutes the attacker returned and stabbed her again. Once again, Kitty Genovese cried for help saying “I’m dying! Please somebody help me!” Some lights turned on and the tenants from the safety of their apartment only watched what was happening without offering any assistance to the victim. Kitty Genovese died in front of a number of witnesses that silently...
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