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Why Don’t People Help in a Crisis? Essay

“Help! Help! I’m dying..!” Those were the last words Kitty Genovese had said before meeting her demise. In the reading titled “Why Don’t People Help in a Crisis” by John Darley and Bibb Latane, they claim that all witnesses in a situation are indifferent. One of their examples include the famous murder of Kitty Genovese in which thirty-eight witnesses looked at the scene more than once and did nothing about it. “They continued to stare out their windows, caught, fascinated, distressed, unwilling to act but unable to turn away,” says Darley and Latane. Even though people may disagree and say, “Well, if I was a witness I would have done something about the situation,” they can’t deny the fact that Darley and Latane made a very valid point about bystanders. Darley and Latane state that we tend to follow the crowd. The thirty-eight witnesses of the Kitty Genovese case attests to this. It’s in my understanding that the thirty-eight witnesses of the murder saw the situation as a lover’s quarrel. Now, that’s understandable, but even after she continuously screamed for help? Isn’t that reason enough to jump in and assist the lady in her time of distress?

With roughly sixteen witnesses spread out on the upper level and sixteen on the bottom, someone should have done something! Darley and Latane state that in situations or emergencies people may be too shocked to do anything, but I completely oppose that idea because even in shock you need to realize that if you let a person die or get hurt then you’ll have a guilty conscience. And just because you’re afraid of losing your own life, it doesn’t give you the right to let someone else’s life end as well because it’s inhumane. You can think of it as yourself killing that person. It’s completely wrong for a person to watch in anticipation as to what may happen next in a situation such as Kitty Genovese’s. Also, one man said during the investigation and questioning, “I was tired… So I went back to bed.”

So I find it very disappointing that although one call could have made a difference, thirty-eight chose not to do anything because the fear of involvement had pushed them away from doing the right thing. So while I do agree with most of what Darley and Latane have to say about their observations, I can’t accept one of their ideas. Their idea of people not wanting to seem foolish seems to confuse me because as humans and as a society, we should always be ready to help one another in any given situation. What I mean by that is, a situation shouldn’t be treated differently whether you were helping a friend during an emergency or helping a stranger.

And yes, there are times when people are too prideful to accept your assistance, though on the inside they may think differently. For example, if someone has fallen in a crowd of five-hundred people, everyone will walk on by expecting one of the other five-hundred people to help that person. You don’t want to be the person that took the time out of their day to help a person with a simple problem, though the action itself is very rewarding. We have to understand that helping others should always come first because when you think about it, ignorance can be murder in its own way. I scarcely fathom the reasons why we don’t help others because in reality we are already aware, and we need to stop that trend.


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