It is the case that more often than not, heinous acts are committed in private or away from the public eye. Nevertheless, there are numerous situations where such acts are committed in public places where people witness the acts but fail to do anything to stop the perpetrator. These are persons who have been referred to as bystanders. This term has been used to define them as they are not part of the “confrontation” or “encounter” between the parties in question. These are persons who are simply going about their duties but happen to witness an act which ideally should be a cause for alarm. As clearly illustrated in the Bystander Effect video, there are two main kinds of reactions by persons who witness something amiss in a public place. The first reaction which actually comprises a majority of people is that they will just look then proceed on with their activities.
The farthest they will go in their intervention is taking a sideways look at the proceedings from a distance but take no action to help a party who may potentially be in danger. The second reaction which ideally should be the norm rather than the exception is only found in a very small percentage of the population. Indeed, in the Bystander Effect video, out of the very many passers-by who witnessed the altercation between the young girl and the adult male, it was only four persons who attempted to take action to “rescue” the girl.
This experiment provides a poignant illustration on how bystander individuals respond to a crisis when part of a group. It is evident from the video that the response of most persons would be to simply walk away and assume whatever was happening irrespective of the fact that one of the parties in the commotion may be in grave danger. Additionally, the video shows that fact most bystanders are likely to make assumptions about whatever is happening and it is this assumptions which make them ignore the plight of a victim. It must be emphasized that while there is nothing wrong in making assumptions, in most cases they are made from the wrong premises and a reasonable bystander ought to second guess himself and possibly make a more detailed inquiry as to what he or she has witnessed. This is exactly what the three gentlemen and lady who attempted to intervene in this case did.
Indeed, the Bystander Effect experiment aptly captures what happens in today’s society. This may partly be explained by the fact there has been a great degree of individualization such that people no longer care about others but only about themselves. This can be explained by the rise in popularity and actual entrenchment into society of such phrases as “mind your own business”. To this extent, the bystander will not get involved because whatever is happening is none of their business. Coupled with this is the fact that in today’s world where everyone is busy rushing for meetings or to beat deadlines, some bystanders actually see it as a waste of their time to try and intervene in matters which have nothing to with them. For such bystanders, getting involved in such a scenario is a waste of their time.
The final category of bystanders is those who witness the altercation, intervene but feel inadequate to tackle the perpetrator. Such bystanders actually fear that they may get injured in the ensuing melee if they get involved and consequently prefer to keep a safe distance. Of course, this may be at a great risk to the potential victim of the perpetrator. This article concludes by advancing the position that there is need for a paradigm shift, bystanders must start getting involved otherwise they may equally be put in the same category as accomplices to a crime.
Gray, E., & Farall, J. J. (2011). In Search of the Fear of Crime: Using Interdisciplinary Insights to Improve the Conceptualisation and Measurement of Everyday Insecurities. Sage Handbook of Criminological Research, 75-90.
Taylor, R. B. (2010). Communities, Crime and Reactions to Crime Multilevel Models: Accomplishments and Meta-Challenges. Journal of Quantitave Criminology, 455-466.