FOX 13 News 360: The spectator effect

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A kidnapping filmed at a Utah convenience store on June 26 has now been viewed more than 2 million times online.

The woman seen in the video is now safe, and the suspect – her former boyfriend – was arrested.

But many who saw the video were stunned that passers-by didn’t seem to come to his aid.

Liz Sollis of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition says the safest thing a person can do is call 911.

“I think it’s easy to say, ‘I would have done this, they should have done that’ when you’re in a crisis,” she said. “What you think you would do and what you do are very different things.”

The video has no audio, but witnesses later told police the woman was crying for help. She even ran to a man filling his truck with gasoline. No one intervened when the man she was fleeing grabbed her and threw her over her shoulder.

“We know the onlooker effect is real and depressing,” said Kayleigh Bronson-Cook of Canyon Creek Services, who deals with domestic and sexual violence in the greater Cedar City area. “People think they have to go out there and start CPR or jump in between someone about to hit someone in the face, and it doesn’t have to be that extreme.”

Those who study the spectator effect say that the more witnesses there are, the less likely they are to do something. But if one person acts, others are likely to join us.

Bronson-Cook says how to safely intervene and help should be your first concern, adding that a quick safety inventory could guide you through a similar situation. Are you safe? Will you continue to be safe if you intervene? Could you get help from others?

“Someone calling the police is an act of spectator intervention. Just because they’re not trying to tear this woman away from the man doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything, ”she said.

In this case, the information provided to the police assisted in the arrest.

“There is a balance between how and when to intervene,” said retired Unified Police Deputy Chief Chris Bertram.

Bertram added that if you overreact in a situation like this, you could amplify the incident further, adding that it is difficult for passers-by to know the whole picture.

“If you overreact in a situation like this where we think it’s kidnapping but it’s just a prank or a boyfriend and girlfriend are bickering and I can overreact. “to be using force or even lethal force, then I held responsible not only civilly, but from a criminal point of view. You also have to be very careful in these situations,” he said.

There are examples of people who intervene only to become victims themselves. According to the invoicing documents, Melissa Wood, 34, was stabbed to death in the courtyard of his Murray apartment complex by a A 16-year-old boy she was confronted with for his use of racist slurs.

Shelly Heyrend is Director of Prevention and Education for CAPSA in Logan, fighting domestic violence and supporting rape recovery in Cache and Rich counties.

“Nine times out of 10 you’re going to kick yourself if you don’t help,” she said.

Heyrend says there is training for this sort of thing called “Upstanding” that Utah has developed.

The training advises you to focus on the situation, delegate other people to help you, or create a distraction.

Experts say these are the steps that are most effective from the start.

“We have spectators blame. We should ask ourselves why the person who committed the abuse committed the abuse, “Solis added.

To learn more about Upstanding training, Click here. And if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can find help and resources. here.


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