If one were to witness another human in a vulnerable position clearly enduring agonizing pain, many humans tend to believe they would rush to help without a single hint of reluctance, however a psychological phenomenon has disproven this common thought. “The bystander effect,” is a theory that further explains the effects and thought process of the human brain.
This horrific concept illustrates that when one is surrounded by others, they are discouraged from intervening in a critical, or sometimes even fatal situation. Though this research has led to outstanding breakthroughs in the psychological world, it is one that stemmed from an unfortunately violent attack. Catherine, “Kitty,” Genovese was an American citizen who was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 7, 1935. During the early hours of March 13, 1964, Genovese was brutally robbed, raped, and stabbed inside of her own home. At 1am on this fatal day, Winston Moseley, a young man who had secretly killed before, drove around for two hours in search for an appropriate victim. It was at this moment when Genovese was returning home from a long day at work, where Moseley discovered his next victim. Moseley deliberately followed Genovese until she heard the footsteps of Genovese slowly increase in sound as he got closer, causing her to frantically run away from her attacker. As the two entered the apartment complex, the aggressor was able to stab her, however the knife was not inserted into a vital body part.
As Genovese was still breathing she was able to desperately yell, “Oh God! I’ve been stabbed.” A neighbour, Robert Mozer, witnessed the attack and actually yelled at the man to leave Genovese alone. The neighbour’s attempt to put this situation at a halt was only successful momentarily as she was able to run away. Unfortunately Moseley was quickly able to catch up and proceeded to rape, stab, and rob forty-nine american dollars from the defenseless Genovese. The victim was left at the foot of the stairs hardly alive.
Sophie Farrar, a neighbour and friend, only came to her aid after the events transpired, and held her still, lifeless body until emergency services arrived. The local emergency service were not called until four in the morning, well over thirty minutes after the initial attack. The autopsy of her body entails that she was maliciously stabbed thirteen times. It was later theorized that had help been contacted after the first attack, Genovese would have most likely survived. The shockingly tragic outcome of this incident is necessary to allude to when talking about the bystander effect, as it was the first notorious real life example that horrified the public. Though the helpless cries of Genovese were heard by many, and no one came to her aid until it was too late. This is a prime example of the bystander effect as no one intervened when witnessing an appalling situation, as they felt as though the responsibility was diffused amongst others who lived in the same apartment complex.
This incident occurred in a public area, therefore no one took the initiative to step up as they assumed that someone else has already took on the responsibility of helping out, thus perfectly depicting the bystander effect. Moseley soon confessed to taking the lives of three women, including Kitty Genovese, as well as multiple rapes and thefts. He spent the remainder of his life being imprisoned as he died at the age of eighty-one in prison. Following attack Martin Gansberg released an article titled, “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call The Police.” Within the article Gansberg writes about how it took over a half an hour for one person to contact the authorities, even though there were thirty seven witnesses. Whether that number is true has yet to be proven, but nonetheless Gansberg’s work really helped create a global interest for what is now known as the bystander effect.
This murdercase along with the Gansberg’s piece are two integral components that are responsible for inspiring the public to the push for in depth research of the bystander effect, eventually leading to the the first major experiments. The bystander or the Genovese effect is a social psychological sensation. The probab