The Bystander Effect – As many as 20 people witness gang rape & fail to report

A dear friend sent me a link to this very sad story.  Basically, a 15 year old girl was gang raped outside a school dance for over two hours while as many as 20 people watched or participated in the attack.  No one called 9-1-1 or reported the crime.  My friend sent me the link with a note attached that read, “why isn’t self-defense mandatory in high schools?”  I don’t have an answer.  I don’t know.

I also don’t know why so many kids stood by and allowed this to happen.  There are already dozen of articles out there hypothesizing about what happened here.  Was it a bystander effect (which is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a large group of people witness a crime and diffuse responsiblity among the group)?  Did they fear retaliation from the group?  Have they been desensitized by the violent and sexual media that surround us? I could go on and on listing the theories that abound on this topic.

I recently took a CPR re-certification class.  We had already learned half of the skills that the class teaches when one young girl in the back raised her hand and said, “ok, I understand how to do this, but how do I know when to do it?”  It is an excellent question.

We teach our children about 9-1-1 from a young age, but do we tell them when to use it?  Do we have them practice dialing the number (with the phone unplugged, of course) and teach them how to answer basic questions that an emergency dispatcher might ask?  When we get in new situations, we often freeze and witnessing a violent crime is no different.  When will we begin to teach our children the basic skills they need to survive and thrive in this world?  Violence happens.  We can’t ignore it or deny it.  We must take responsiblity for teaching our children these skills.  And we must learn to help each other.  Afterall, if we weren’t put on this planet to help each other out, then what are we here for?

Our thoughts and prayers are with this girl, her family, and her community.

Rape victims charged

The official definition of the word victimization is: to make a victim of.  The definition of re-victimization is: again anew.  Often in the anti-violence community, re-victimization is the concept of a child who endures emotional abuse as a child, will then find themselves in emotionally abusive relationships as an adult.  That’s why so often, violence is referred to as a cycle, which goes round and round…

So when I read this article in the Huffington Post today, I couldn’t help but think the same theory applies here.  Take a victim of rape, who makes the brave decision to go to the hospital and have an exam performed to collect evidence in hopes of catching and prosecuting her attacker.  After being sexually violated in the most vile way, you can only imagine the trauma that an invasive vaginal exam can have on a woman.  And that’s not the re-victimization part yet…that’s just what she has to go through in order to get her second dose of hell.

No, the re-victimization I’m speaking of is being doled out by state governments in sending a bill to rape victims to actually pay for their exam!  Here is a segment from the article:

Congress created the Violence Against Women Act to protect victims and encourage them to report rapes. The law known as VAWA has forced many states to crack down on billing problems.  But ambiguities in the law still allow a remarkable disparity in the legal system: Some rape victims, unlike victims of other crimes, have to pay for basic evidence collection.  “We never ask a robbery victim to pay for the cost of fingerprints,” said Sarah Tofte, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, which has been tracking how states comply with VAWA.

“As a victim recovers from her assault, the last thing she needs is a bill for her exam,” said Katherine Hull, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.  “Rape is not something you can budget for.”

Overall, I believe this is a national disgrace and we need to do something about it.  Most of the work we do at Fight Back Productions is focused on the proactive or preventative measures a woman can take to avoid becoming a victim.  But we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that violence is happening NOW and we need to take care of people who have been affected by it NOW.

Take action!  Get familiar with the Violence Against Women Act by reading up at Wikipedia.


Visit the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) website to learn more about getting involved in the role of DNA testing for victims of rape.