Bystander Effect

A man was walking down a dimly lit street late one evening when he heard muffled screams coming from behind a clump of bushes. Alarmed, he slowed down to listen, and panicked when he realized that what he was hearing were the unmistakable sounds of a struggle: heavy grunting, frantic scuffling, and tearing of fabric.

Only yards from where he stood, a woman was being attacked. Should he get involved? He was frightened for his own safety, and cursed himself for having suddenly decided to take a new route home that night. What if he became another statistic? Shouldn’t he just run to the nearest phone and call the police?

Although it seemed an eternity, the deliberations in his head had taken only seconds, but already the girl’s cries were growing weaker. He knew he had to act fast. How could he walk away from this? No, he finally resolved, he could not turn his back on the fate of this unknown woman, even if it meant risking his own life.

He was not a brave man, nor was he athletic. Somehow he found the moral courage and physical strength — but once he had finally resolved to help the girl, he became strangely transformed. He ran behind the bushes and pulled the assailant off the woman. Grappling, they fell to the ground, where they wrestled for a few minutes until the attacker jumped up and escaped.

Panting hard, he scrambled upright and approached the girl, who was crouched behind a tree, sobbing. In the darkness, he could barely see her outline, but he could certainly sense her trembling shock.

Not wanting to frighten her further, he at first spoke to her from a distance. “It’s okay,” he said soothingly. “The man ran away. You’re safe now.”

There was a long pause and then he heard the words, uttered in wonder, in amazement. “Dad, is that you?”

Leave a comment