Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Bystander Effect & City Living

This happened not too long ago in Queens.

A lot of people are ragging about how heartless New Yorkers are & that all these passerby are evil people. Here's my two cents:

A) I know all about the bystander effect. I heard the story of Kitty Genovese in Psych class & we studied that phenomenon in my class. One of the things that we looked at is when someone will help out vs. when someone won't.

People tend to help in these situations:

* The person in need looks like them
* The bystander isn't in a hurry
* There aren't many people around or someone has been told to do something
* There isn't as much a risk of danger to the bystander for helping out (as in, it's daylight, you don't fear being sued or fined by the police if it turns out you make a false report to 911, etc.)

People are less likely to help in these situations:

* The person in need doesn't look like them (old man vs. young woman going by)
* The bystander has somewhere to be
* It's a crowded area (everyone assumes someone else in the vicinity has already called 911 or will take care of the problem)
* Lots of danger to the bystander for getting involved (bad neighborhood, the bystander doesn't know the area, laws discourage Good Samaritan behavior or mistaken attempts to help someone, scams by people looking like the person in need, etc.)

B) As a woman, you have to be careful at all times. I remember living in Atlanta and driving by myself. I always had my doors locked, never made eye contact with anyone approaching my car & simply moved on my merry way.

I was once trying to get into a MARTA station & this guy tries to tell me that all the other turnstiles are malfunctioning except the one he's standing directly in front of; I was not stupid so I took a different turnstile & thought "You think I'm THAT stupid, asshole?" Another time, some man tried harassing me at a train station and claimed to know me. We had a brief conversation, he didn't approach me but tried to keep me around & I simply dash off saying "I have to go."

I swear for all the talk about Southern hospitality, I had more creepy incidents happen to me in 4 years of living in Atlanta than I have in 3 years of living in NYC. Though the creepiest thing that happened to me in NYC happened right in my own neighborhood. I was ready to go into a gas station I was walking toward to call the cops on this guy that decides to speak to me & say some nasty sexual remarks despite my being married. I even mentioned that my husband would cut his dick off for even speaking to me & dumbass didn't get a clue.

Even in New Haven, I saw someone approach a car in front of me one day when I was driving from the train station. My husband & I wondered who'd be so stupid to let a total stranger near their opened car door. I certainly wouldn't.

I also had a close friend in college who was in an attempted abduction situation in her own neighborhood complete w/being threatened by a man w/a knife. She got away but it definitely had an impact on her.

Point is, women are conditioned not to get involved in situations. They might if it were a woman their age but generally speaking, it's unreasonable & unfair to brand a woman as heartless for not approaching strange men who could hurt her physically. Some of us value our lives & personal safety, thank you VERY much.

C) The "city people are evil" thing: guess what? There are scam artists, beggars & shadiness going on all the time in major cities, especially NYC. Don't kid yourself in thinking it doesn't happen in small towns but it is more prevalent around here. As many people commenting on this story have said, you can't get involved in every little thing if you want to survive here. It can be hazardous to your health & safety. There are evil & desperate people in the world who take advantage of human kindness; you can't be a moron or too trusting.

As for this story in particular, I think the assholes who caused the whole thing should come forward & be liable for this man's death. I don't have much sympathy for the woman since for all we know, she didn't even bother calling 911, probably still went home w/the killer & will cover for him. My own husband would NEVER physically harm me or attack someone who tried helping me.

The area of Queens where this happened also has some very bad sections; I don't know that area of Jamaica too well but if it's in the bad area + this was early in the morning, much harder to get help. If it was me walking alone, I would have to see blood or I'd assume it was some homeless person sleeping or passed out drunk. You see that all the time in NYC. I also wouldn't go touching a stranger & most likely would call the cops in some safe location like a well lighted restaurant away from the action in case it was a set-up.

I also think the guy who took a picture w/a cell phone should be publicly identified & held accountable by the public for his actions. You can't legally go after someone who chooses not to be a Good Samaritan (in other words, you have no duty to help anyone unless you start to undertake efforts to provide help).

BUT...if you could snap a cell phone pic, you could have called the authorities. I hope this guy ends up lying dead somewhere & someone does the exact same thing to him. That would be karma!

My husband said if you'd called 911 in that situation, you can't say anything about it being a homeless guy. Some people said you have to tell the cops it's a white person so they'll show up. And you wonder why Black & Hispanic people particularly hate the police; I'm not crazy about certain ones but try to view any group as having both good and bad people in it + not punishing the good people for the actions of the bad ones. I've personally had good interactions w/the police but have family & friends who've experienced bad ones so I know it happens.

So I agree w/those who say it's a societal problem. It's huge but I can't really offer a solution. Maybe some of you have one?

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