Friday, October 30, 2009

Those Who Live In Glass Houses

Oh Friday, how I have longed for your gentle embrace. I have soothed myself, secure in the knowledge that yes, yes indeed, this week really will end.

Unless I get hit by a bus or a meteor today.

I got to sleep in a little this morning. Perhaps I should rephrase that...I got to lounge in bed for a few minutes this morning and listen to the radio. For me, that is the start of a good day.

And then I heard this.

I've been living under a rock lately so perhaps I'm horribly behind the times. Apparently it was also discussed on Talk of the Nation.

I know this isn't anything new. It's been noted throughout history. It's been caught on tape.

What is it in a person that allows them to break free of fear of retribution so they can call the police? What is it in a person that would allow them to stand by and watch, perhaps cheer, perhaps take pictures with a cell phone, of a gang rape?

I think I've told the story before (damned if I'm going to search for it) of when I knew that I had to get out of my marriage. It was years ago. We were driving to the cities and as we drove south, in the northbound lane there were two cars pulled off to the side of the road. There was one guy lying on the pavement and another guy standing over him with a gun to his head.

STBX was driving and as we saw this I told him that he needed to call 911. He told me that he wasn't going to get involved. I was absolutely incredulous. I wasn't asking him to break up the incident, I wasn't asking him to go anywhere near it. I was asking him to call the police to deal with a situation that we obviously didn't understand.

"I don't want them to be able to find out who I am", was his explanation. He was always a conspiracy nut job, always convinced that everyone was out to get him (always playing the victim) and up to that point, I didn't think that there was any reason why he would feel that way. After years of being treated like shit, it took the revelation that not only didn't he give a damn about me, he didn't give a damn about society at large. (This incident has haunted me even more since realizing what he really was hiding. It also makes me think that there was probably even more that he was hiding.)

Not helping others, even actively participating by taking pictures or laughing, it makes me crazy. I suppose if you are unable to empathize and life and death are equal jokes, it really wouldn't be that big of a deal. It makes me wonder if they would have any expectations of others if they were in a similar position. In all reality, my guess would be no.

But I'm also thinking that there are people that are just too scared or too comfortable in their own ruts to allow for unexpected occurrences. I was on the city bus once when a young woman got on who had obviously been involved in a domestic assault. She flung herself onto the bus as her attacker screamed at her from the sidewalk. He chased the bus, continuing to scream profanities, as she stood in the aisle and scanned the crowd. No one moved. No one even acknowledged her. Including myself.

She then pulled the signal and the bus stopped, right in front of where the guy had stopped at the corner. She turned around and started to walk down the stairs.

I waited until she was halfway out the door to finally break out of my silence and holler to her. I told her that she didn't have to get off the bus.

She never looked back. She just walked up to him and as the bus pulled away, he was grabbing her by the hair and dragging her down the sidewalk.

I could have stopped that. Now, I'm ready. Now I know that I will look the person in the eye, tell them to sit down and let them know that they can rely on me to get them the help that they need. I now know who to call.

But it haunts me and I hope that it always will. I would hope that anyone who hears of a story in the news of bystanders that did nothing would stop and ask themselves, "What would I do?".

Figure it out now. You might not have time to figure it out later.


superiorfan said...

About a year in a half ago I did the SDP Citizens Police Academy. Duluth also has a program and I'd highly recommend these programs.

We talked a lot about how to handle these emergency situations. How to make better more informative 911 calls. If in doubt at all call 911 don't second guess if you even think a call might be appropriate.

Currently in Superior a rapist is being charged because of a 911 call. A 911 caller said they heard screams coming for the wade bowl area. The officer responding arrived and did not find anything at first but stopped and identified an individual walking on the other side of the park. Made positive ID and recorded the information. 20 mins later the call of the assault comes in from the victim. Police recontacted the suspect and collected evidence. Without the 911 call the suspect would have been long gone. Remember at the time the suspect(rapist) was first contacted there was not even a report of an assault.

Anonymous said...

Are you talking about the gang rape in Richmond? That is about 1 1/2 hours away and million miles away. It does not surprise me in the least that these bastards did this and that others took video for their own personal viewing pleasure. Richmond is dangerous. It is out of control, no one is safe there. I hope to God that poor child recovers.
Tabatha (Friend in Folsom)

superiorfan said...

Should add DNA evidence links suspect with two other sexual assaults. He may also be linked to a third assault.

All because of one 911 call that got an officer a location before the victim reported the crime.

superiorfan said...

In case you missed this story in Texas.

Wonder if the law could be challenged at the Texas Supreme Court to see if they would give an opinion of the intent of the law. Then go back with charges based on that ruling of intent of the law. Last year at Superior Days in Madison Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson spoke to us regarding these types of rulings on intent of the law when it was questionable on the intent of the law. Of course this is Wisconsin and not Texas.

Rebecca Hartong said...

Social psychologists call this sort of thing (where a crowd witnesses a crime but nobody does anything about it) "diffusion of responsibility". Part of it is the expectation that someone else will (or already has) contacted the police. Another part of it is that people take their cues from those around them. If no one else seems alarmed by the situation, an individual will assume they must be misinterpreting what's going on and will adjust their behavior accordingly. My personal belief is that the "fake" violence depicted in the media has also numbed people to the horror of REAL violence. Add to that the large numbers of people who don't seem to believe that part of being a parent is teaching their children some moral values... Well... I despair.