Why I Always Call 911 [The Bystander Effect]

Posted in Insurance / Stories

Kitty Genovese

    Kitty Genovese was returning home late one night from her job as a bartender, when she was brutally attacked, stabbed, raped, and eventually murdered. While that is a very tragic story, it is not the worst part. The worst part is that there were at least 12 different witnesses who did nothing. Some of the witnesses claim to have heard something around 3:20am, but police were not called until 3:50am.


    This particular murder happened in 1964 and prompted the research in something now known as the Bystander Effect.


    I learned about the Bystander Effect when I was in University in Sociology 101 class. The definition states that the greater number of people at the scene, the less likely they are to help. This can also be known as the diffusion of responsibility.


    I know that all this sounds fancy-shcmancy, but in simple terms, it basically means that: More People = Less Help.


There are usually 2 major reasons why the Bystander Effect happens:

  •    There is something called the Diffusion of Responsibility, this basically means that when other are present, people do not feel pressured to take action. This when people will say things such as, "Someone else has probably called the police" or "I just don't want to get involved, someone else will".
  • The second reason has more to do with what people perceive to be socially acceptable behaviour. There is pressure to behave or act in socially acceptable ways. When others fail to react, the bystanders take that as a response to mean help is not needed or appropriate.

        The Bystander Effect does not just apply to the random people who are nearby when an accident or crime happens. It also applies to those who are aware that crime is about to be or is being commited and still do nothing. In those particular cases, those people can be held liable and even charged.


         As I was doing my research into this, I came across The 10 Most Notorious Cases of the Bystander Effect, needless to say, I was intrigued. After I went through them, my heart and soul just hurt. They are gruesome and horrible. I posted the link if you want to go through them yourselves, but be warned, they are hard to read, and not appropriate for children.


        Ever since that class, and especially after everything I have read, I have sworn to myself to make sure that I am never the bystander. I would rather be the 100th caller on an accident, than having not called at all.