Don’t Succumb to the Bystander Effect

By DA Chaney                                                                                                                            Director of Communications & Outreach, Zombie Action Committee

Awareness is the key. Once you truly become enlightened, you have the power to challenge it. To change it. To whip it into shape. That’s how anything that is ever going to change, will. It all starts with you.

With awareness and the decision to act on it.

It doesn’t mean you have to get always get physically involved, maybe you can’t, but there are other ways to bring levels of sensible response to a disturbing situation.

There is a common social hindrance that strikes a large group of people witnessing a violent or shocking act called “bystander apathy phenomenon” or the“bystander effect”. The diffusion of responsibility is passed around to the group watching the event and the people all believe that “someone else” will do what is necessary. They look to anyone else to become involved, because they choose not to directly become a part of the scene before them. We’re not here to point fingers or make people unduly upset at the point we’re trying to make, but as a person- your level of awareness in this bad social pack behavior is something you need to recognize in an emergency situation, so that you can change it. Whether you’re dealing with an every day crisis (car accidents) or the first stages of a zombie apocalypse happening in your backyard, you should understand what is happening and that only you can make this change.

Your phone call, just a phone call, can save lives. Or in this case, a man’s entire face.

It is reported that it took 18 minutes for bystanders who watched horrified, not knowing what to do, to call for police assistance in Miami. In the heat of the moment, eighteen minutes probably feels like no time at all has gone by with the thrum of shock blazing through a witness’ mind. What was happening seemed like something out of a movie set. There was confusion, panic, shock, disgust, horror, and fear among the group. Visualize it in your mind. Some of you have seen the footage. It might not be lack of compassion that makes you dial or not for help, because certainly seeing something like that can put you out of alignment with time. But those precious moments may have lessened the damage, right? A phone call a little earlier and maybe a closer patrolman in the area could have been on scene quicker, trained in what to do in an emergency situation.

There are many “what if” scenarios in any dangerous situation. “What if I intervene and get sued or hurt?” It certainly has happened to other people. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a good Samaritan, to physically get involved if you’re not trained (and even sometimes when you are) to handle the situation. So don’t. If you see something, all you have to do is pick up your mobile phone and call for help.

We’re not at all advocating that you directly become responsible in the actions taking place on the scene. We want you safe, too. So, leave heated confrontations to the professionals lest bad things escalate worse (please), but you can pick up the phone and call the authorities. Who cares if the police department gets twenty phone calls from the same neighborhood claiming someone is screaming bloody murder next door (probably with good reason)?

You might save that family’s lives because maybe the other nineteen people didn’t make the phone call that you assume they made. You may be instrumental in stopping a horrible crime from being committed.

Yes, if you’re reading this, you’re right. Some people out there are just a bunch of pranksters. Tying the girlfriend up in duck tape and tossing her in the back of the car for fun…well, it may be a lot of fun to them, but let the police sort it out, because maybe they are not playing around. That’s not for you to decide. Make the call. Yes, some couples just fight all the time. But sometimes fighting goes too far, and so what if they think you’re just being nosy. If they are so loud that you can hear them from your living room…I have news for you. You are involved, so make the call that not only gives you peace and quiet, but also, could stop an escalating cycle of violence happening in that household. You could just turn up the TV and pretend not to hear it, but if something bad happens, wouldn’t you have wished you called the police? How many people say that on TV after something terrible happens? “I wish I had done something”.

Sure, a phone call could be mildly embarrassing if you’re not one hundred percent sure what’s happening- but embarrassment is nothing compared to someone becoming a victim of a violent crime. Pick up the phone. Dial those numbers. Train your mind to act quickly in an emergency to reach out for the police. Please.

You can make that difference.


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