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.

Violence Today

I’m sure anyone who would turn on CNN and learn of a mass shooting in their hometown would lose their breath, as I did, when I learned what happened in Pittsburgh Tuesday night. I fell asleep watching the news, not having any specific details of the incident. I saw the phrase “random act of violence” flash on my screen as I turned off the lights…but I knew better.

I know that violence is almost never random.  I know that there are almost always warning signs. I know that people who commit mass shootings have likely planned it for a long time and often have told someone along the way.  I know that there will be at least one person in the aftermath saying “I knew this was going to happen”.  

The media had already proved most of the above to be true before I got to work the next morning. The gunman had published an online journal for nearly 10 months, detailing his troubles with women and his loneliness.  It outlined the women who had avoided him and some that he felt had taunted him. He also discussed the lack of a support system in family and friends. It’s hard to read, but important in learning. Even a lonely gunman can recognize that, as he mentions his “practice papers” and notes, giving permission to publish them as “some people like to study that stuff”.  

It’s actually in this continuous cycle of learning that I find I am most frustrated. With every shooting in a gym or a school or an office- we promise to learn more. With every attack or sexual assault on a college campus or in the community- we promise to learn more. With every new story of a husband who killed his wife after years of abuse- we promise to learn more.  We promise to learn more and are grateful for the solemn warnings. Personally, I don’t think I can bear anymore of these “warnings”.

At some point we need to stop learning and apply what we now know. We know that violence is a huge problem that is getting worse every day.  We’ve been warned. We need to attack it with such force that there should barely be time to sleep! We need to stop saying “I knew it” and start saying “I know it”.

Perhaps this is my sad rant at continuing to see Facebook updates of friends who were affected by the Bridgeville shooting. I can’t help that I’m frustrated hearing again and again, “I can’t believe this happened here, to us”. To be clear, I am speaking in general terms. I’m not proposing to know everything about this particular case, the people involved, or what anyone should or should not have done.  Instead, I’m proposing education. If for no other reason than to take the shock of violence out of the minds of people who will find themselves completely unprepared should they be faced with it.

For every act of violence there are people that have a plan. They want to talk to you about the warning signs of mental illness and depression, they want to teach your children how to survive a school shooting, educate you on sexual assaults, promote awareness of hate crimes or teach you how to fight back.  

I’m so proud to be a part of Fight Back Productions, spreading the message and the knowledge of being your own best protector. I’m hopeful that people will continue to be open to learning more from FBP and other organizations who are fighting everyday to make things better.