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The Bystander

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Are you a bystander?
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  THE BYSTANDER Laura Noonan It‟s a question you never want to know the answer to. What would you do if someone keeled over in front of you? If you saw a suspicious man lead a small child away from a playground? If a lady was begging for help behind the front door of your neighbours‟ house?  Charles Ramsay took action. He kicked a hole in his neighbours‟ front door, allowing Amanda Barry to escape and ring the authorities. It was then revealed that his actions meant two more women could escape from being held captive in  Ariel Castro‟s house. The women had been there for ten years, and were considered dead. In a case full of happy reunions and unanswered questions, there is one thing for certain- not everyone would have done what Ramsay did. He avoided the „Bystander Effect‟,  and is being considered a hero for doing so.  According to Hudson and Brookman‟s study „The Bystander Effect: A Lens For Understanding Patterns Of Participation‟, the bystander effect is described as “ the reason why individuals are less likely to help in an emergency if others are present ” . One would like to think that in the case of a life being at risk, you would do anything to save a stranger. Jai Warren from the Sunshine Coast recalls a time where he stepped up and took action to save a stranger‟s life. “I watched a girl fall off the rocks at Gardner Falls and hit her head pretty bad. Myself, her brother and her friend were the only ones to help, while a bunch of adults stood around watching. We ended up stabilizing her and helping her to the ambulance, they all still stood around though. None of them offered to help. ”  So why didn‟t more people lend a hand ? There are a variety of reasons.  According to a study by Princeton University, bystanders will often assume that the victim is already receiving help, or that help is on the way. Bystanders might also presume from the general calmness that it actually isn‟t an emergency, and that there is no need for drastic action. Some experts claim that witnesses see the victim as powerless, and don‟t want to upset the person perpetrating the crime. Emergency situations may not seem like assistance is even required. Bystanders will notice a thief run away with a handbag, or walk passed someone who has tripped over. These situations on a shallow level may not seem like they are worth helping a fellow human being out on. However, the bystander effect can have terrible consequences resulting from inaction. The case that coined the phrase happened in the 1960s, when Kitty Genovese was attacked and murdered in her building in New York City. When  authorities questioned witnesses who didn‟t help, one of them summed up the general attitude. “I didn‟t want to be involved.”  This attitude has been repeated in a plethora of cases, even cases that end in rape and murder. In 2009, a 15 year-old girl was raped repeatedly at her local high school. The assistant principal noticed a large group of men without identification hanging out near the scene of the crime. He went back to work. In France, Ilan Halimi was tortured for 24 days, in plain sight of the neighbours. Not only did the neighbours not report the crime, some of them contributed. How can society avoid this effect? As Kitty‟s brother Vincent points out, everyone these days has access to a mobile. He even advocates not getting involved, but argues there is no reason someone cannot call emergency services. Practical applications include in the case of a medical emergency, specifically pointing to a person to ring an ambulance. This offers responsibility to the person and puts them on the spot, meaning they are less likely to do nothing. But with all good intentions, currently there is no law forcing people to act when they see an emergency. California has introduced some legislation, making it illegal to not report a crime against a child. Queensland has the Good Samaritan Act 2007, which offers legal protection to those who help someone injured, ill or generally incapable of helping themselves. While this may encourage good behaviour, there is still no „duty to rescue‟ in  Australia. In Germany, failure to provide assistance in an emergency is a legal offense. In the time it takes to have such a discussion on a piece of legislation regarding the „duty of care‟ Australians should or should not provide, there is one very simple act that does not need passing. It‟s the act of not just standing there.  SOURCES http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327809jls1302_2#.UYnR-SuSCi0 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/07/cleveland-kidnapping-importance-neighbors http://neuron4.psych.ubc.ca/~schaller/Psyc591Readings/GarciaWeaverMoskowitzDarley2002.pdf Jai Warren-   0408817706 http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/10/28/california.gang.rape.bystander/index.html?_s=PM:CRIME http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/Bills/52PDF/2007/CivilGSAB07Exp_P.pdf  http://listverse.com/2009/11/02/10-notorious-cases-of-the-bystander-effect/ 
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