In October 2009, a Richmond, CA. high school student was repeatedly raped while a couple of bystanders watched; they laughed, took pictures, sent text messages and made phone calls as the crime was happening. None of the calls placed was to the police. While the bystanders in this case were mostly teenagers and young adults, this non-reaction amongst bystanders cuts across different age groups and gender. Sadly, this is a normal response from bystanders as acts of violence are committed. The passive reaction is borne out of our culture of individualism; a ‘me first’ or “what’s in it for me” mentality.
There have been several reasons argued for the lack of bystander involvement in thwarting an act of violence. The reasons put forward
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In the rape case, the witnesses were not charged as accomplices because they were considered minors; neither were the thirty-eight bystanders in the Genovese murder. Witnesses and bystanders who do nothing should be held as responsible as the perpetrators. We are becoming a cold and callous society, a product of the rigors and demands of the fast pace of life that comes with modernization. The onus should be placed on bystanders to report an act of crime as it is happening. A need for communal responsibility needs to be emphasized. Laws need to be put in place dictating that bystanders who witness a crime and do nothing, be charged with an offence. Just as the innocent party whose only link to the convenience store hold up is being in the getaway car is charged as an accomplice; so should the bystander. There is no innocent bystander.
Most people think the only ways to help when witnessing a crime is to be involved in the attack physically, keep looking, or walk away. This stand, watch and do nothing attitude of bystanders is becoming the norm rather than the exception. As a result, across the country, bystander education and awareness campaigns are being developed to educate people about the need to act in such instances. The aim of these programs is to send the message that, they are morally responsible.
Bystanders should be liable and held