Home / Fall 2011 / 2011-10-20 / Bystanders should intervene

Bystanders should intervene

You walk through the Foshan City market one day, when you notice a bleeding two-year-old girl lying on the side of the street. You would of course rush over and help her, or would you?

Last Thursday in Foshan City, China, a two-year-old girl was run over, backed over, run over again with a truck and then was run over once more by an another vehicle. Eighteen people saw but passed the injured Yue Yue as she lay on the street side. After she was already severely injured, a woman came to pull her out of the street. Would you have been one of the crowd or Chen Xianmei, the bystander who stood out from the crowd and helped?

Cases like this have happened before. Perhaps the most famous occurred on one early New York City morning in 1964. Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, a 28-year-old coming home from work, was attacked, stabbed, raped, robbed and murdered, while 38 people watched from the safety of their apartments.

Shocking isn’t it? No one helped. No one intervened. You sit in dismay, thinking I would have helped if I was there. Wouldn’t I?

What if you saw someone trip and drop her books?

Oh well, I was running late to class.

What if you saw a guy and girl shouting on the front lawn, and then the guy pushes her?

Oh well, I didn’t want to get involved.

What if you saw someone looking for help? You would leave them be for someone else, wouldn’t you?

Many of us are pressed for time. College students live on a tight schedule. I know my to-do list constantly loops in my mind; I miss people needing help until I have already passed them by. When it does register, the person has fixed his or her problem or has been helped.

Or I think someone else will do it. Someone else will stop and let the driver pull out into traffic. Someone else will donate and stop animal abuse. Someone else will help, so why should I?

Unfortunately, most teachers and employers won’t take helping someone as an excuse for tardiness. To help with time constraint, you can try to email your teacher or call your boss and let them know you will be late. Teachers will see the email time and know you sent it before class. Bosses should be less severe since you let them know ahead of time you would be late. You can show your commitment to your class and job while still helping someone out. If the circumstance allows for it, you can also offer to call someone for the stranded person. That way, you can make it to the classroom or the office on time while still helping out.

Safety and validity play a factor too. Media, from news to movies, show stories about random attacks—the stranded person pretending to have car trouble is actually a rapist lying in wait for a victim. The person on the street begging for money owns a two-story mansion on the street over. We also don’t know what to expect from the circumstance at hand, or we are unsure if we should get involved.

When later interviewed, the witnesses admitted to safety and validity being reasons why they did not help. In the Genovese case, one man did call down and shooed the killer away; however, even when Genovese called out for help, no one came or even called the police. One neighbor said she heard the commotion but thought it was just a “lover’s quarrel,” according to truTV crime library.

In China, there have been instances in which people have helped, but at a cost, such as getting sued or being considered responsible for the injured person by the hospital or authorities, according to The Hamilton Spectator.

Help when you can. Don’t just write every problem off, thinking, oh well, someone else will come to the rescue. If you get a little more in your paycheck one week, contribute the extra money to a church or charity. If you have free time in your schedule, stop by the soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

You can even help out in little ways. You can help someone jump his or her broken down car or at least call for someone to help them. You can help a new student or resident find his or her way around campus or town. You don’t have to save the world; you just need to do your part.

You can scoff at the witnesses. You think you would have been different. You would have done something different, but would you?

You will never know, until you are in the situation. Let’s just hope when the opportunity presents itself, you will be the one to step in, not the one to walk by.

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