Do you have Genovese Syndrome?

I was reading an article on my local paper about a woman who, during an episode related to a medical condition, fell onto the light-rail train tracks right as a train was approaching. According to witnesses and a security tape, it took over 20 seconds for anyone to respond and only one person actually jumped down to help her. Having witnessed many instances of this social disease and having been a victim of it myself, I have finally encountered a name for it: Genovese syndrome or "the bystander effect."

To put it simply, Genovese syndrome is the socio-psychological phenomenon when bystanders offer no help to people in a crisis situation. This is mostly exhibited by ignoring victims and according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, over 68% of violent physical assaults are witnessed by bystanders who take no action.

How hard is it to at least call 911? It was too hard for THIRTY-EIGHT of Kitty Genovese's (for the phenomenon was named) neighbors to call the police or offer assistance to the young woman who was sexually assaulted, stabbed and killed on the street in front of her apartment complex in 1964.

I remember two summers ago, I was taking the streetcar home from work. I was distracted, talking on my cellphone, in Spanish (I only mention this because it is relevant to what happened next), when I bumped into a man as I was trying to press the stop request button. The next thing I know is this man has me by the neck, with my back up to the wall of the vehicle and he is snarling all sorts of racist (anti-Latino) and homophobic remarks at me, lecturing me that I need to learn some "respect". To my horror, no one did anything. People just stared. Not even the streetcar operator had the stones to do anything. I had been assaulted and humiliated in public. I think the worst part of the whole incident was when the police department told me later on that there was nothing they could do.

Now I have a personal vendetta on public indifference. I think it is disgusting that people will not step in for their fellow citizens when something obviously illegal, life-threatening or offensive is occurring. It should be our duty as members of society to help those in immediate need.

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