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Bystander's Effects on Crime, Poverty, and Social Injustice.

News Article 1: Murder of Kitty Genovese - March 13, 1964/New York Woman Killed While Witnesses Do Nothing to save her from her Killer. Kitty Genovese, on 13th of March 1964 was returning to her residence in Queens, NY after work when she was fatally attacked, raped, and then murdered at her apartment hallway while she was returning from work one night. While her attacker was stabbing and raping her, she desperately called for help, but no one showed up to help nor bothered to call the police. While it has been reported that around 38 people were there witnessing the attack indirectly, but nobody ever tried to intervene to stop that crime from taking place. The attacker felt so comfortable, at one point, he walked away from her and then after a while, returned and carried on stabbing Kitty until she died. The time when the police arrived, it was too late, because Kitty was already dead. It was so distressing to hear that not a single person got involved or did nothing to save her life despite the fact she screamed for help on numerous occasions.

The purpose of this story here is to show two things; the first one is that regardless of the number of people who might be at a crime scene, this is not going to intimidate a criminal from committing that crime if he has real motives to do so. The second one is that, the more people who witness a crime the less chance the victim has to be rescued from his/her attacker or killer. Why do I say that? Because of Bystander's Effects. Remember that 38 people have witnessed Kitty Genovese’s stabbing in New York, on March the 13th of 1964, but none of them has done a thing to save her from her. Or I can use the story about that 13-year-old girl in Texas, back in July 2018, had a fight with one of her older friend (14) in the neighborhood and then during the altercation, end up stabbing her friend to death, while there was a big crowd gathered during the altercation.

Bystander Effect Theory

The term Bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few or no other witnesses. Being part of a large crowd makes it so no single person has to take responsibility for an action or inaction. Here, if we talk about the criminal and psychological theories, there are many as to what variables have an impact on bystander intervention or non-intervention, comprising of self-perception, social-cognitive, and social identity, and evolutionary and biological perspectives. From these theories, a number of studies have analyzed the factors that predict bystander intervention and its effects on people's behaviors, ranging from Poverty, Social Injustice, Sexual Assault to Bullying in Schools. Other research has examined bystander intervention in the context of criminal, harmful, and emergency behaviors as a mechanism of unofficial social control, the strength of which is negatively correlated with the level of violence and crime within society. Social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Lantané (1968) produced the seminal work on bystander intervention, which they started by examining police reports of the murder of Kitty Genovese. They suggested that it was the large number of witnesses that caused the nonintervention, rather than apathy or indifference.

Their studies showed that a person alone is likely to intervene; in contrast, when other bystanders are present, individual bystanders are less likely to intervene. A huge amount of other situational aspects have been analyzed: ambiguity of the situation, level of dependence and distress of the victim, the victim's style of request and degree of physical attractiveness, and the level of threat. These situational studies, particularly the robust finding on the contrary association between a number of bystanders and level of helping behavior, initially raised doubts about the influence of social norms and personal characteristics in understanding bystander behaviors. The way crime is portrayed in this scenario is that people do not really take crime too seriously unless it is about them or their loved ones. Many neighbors heard Kitty screaming for help, but nobody showed up until police arrived. This also shows the society’s obsession with crime. Kitty’s life could have been preserved and this crime could have been prevented if somebody did or say something. Self-perception theory can also be applied to the first article. Why? Because many of those who have witnessed Kitty’s murder viewed their behavior (not helping her) as something normal, because they are not law enforcement officers, so as a result, they said it is not their job to save anyone’s life. Or their behavior was motivated by concerns of their own safety or their own lives.

News Article 2: The Steubenville Rape Case August 11th, 2012 Two teenagers were arrested due to the alleged sex assault of a juvenile girl.

Both boys were taken into custody without incident, as per the County Sheriff Fred Abdalla. It has been reported that the graduates and students of Steubenville High School are purportedly involved in this rape crime. However, none of them reported the crime to the Police. My perception of this story is that people sometimes do bad things, but do not feel any guilt or remorse about it and go on with their lives like nothing ever happen to a point they may try to explain it to other people their own way, the same way they have tried to explain other people’s behavior or action base on their own perception. Self-Perception Theory This crime can be analyzed under self-perception theories concerned with individuals' perceptions of other people's interpretations of their behavior, and they argue that being aware that others are observing could neutralize diffusion of responsibility and negate the bystander effect. Building on this work, researchers have argued that it is the desire to act in ways expected of us that lead to bystander intervention. In a similar vein, SCT or social identity theory and self-categorization theory argue that it is not the number of bystanders that is of primary importance, but the social categorical relations between the individuals present. A central premise of SCT is the dynamic responsiveness of the self within a social context.

A change in social context can lead to a more or less inclusive self-categorization, which then influences behavior. Individual bystanders are more expected to interfere when the others present are included in a salient self-categorization; in other words, when they share a common group membership. The categorical relationship with the victim is also important; that is, when a bystander does not share a salient group membership with the victim, the bystander is more likely to experience a perceived threat and not intervene. So the worst thing than narcissism, racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and any other type of social discrimination is indifference. Nothing is worse than being indifferent with what's going on around you. Indifference is what killed Kitty Genovese in New York back in 1964, indifference is what caused that 13-year-old girl stabbed her 14-year-old friend to death over a simple argument, back in July of last year in Texas, while the grown-ups were watching, entertaining and filming the fight between them. Indifference is what cause poverty and many other bad things across the globe.


Macur, J. (2012). Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City: The New York Times. Retrieved from: Accessed on 21st February, 2014.

The Learning Network. (2012). March 13, 1964 | New York Woman Killed While Witnesses Do Nothing: The New York Times. Retrieved from: Accessed on 21st February, 2014.

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