The Bystander Effect: Woman allegedly raped as bystanders look on... (RO?)

A woman was allegedly raped in St. Paul, as bystanders looked on. No one bothered to do anything about it. Eventually someone phoned in a disturbance that caused the cops to pop by for a visit. By that point in time, it was way too late.

I understand that people can be frightened by what they see and afraid to step in or to make the call. Repercussions, all that. Fine. But how, in good conscience, can you just walk away?

Seriously! Ugh.

The police statement says that the video tape shows the man striking the woman.

The incident is supposed to have occurred over the course of 30 minutes.

The bystanders are reported to have seen the alterction, then ducked back into their own apartments.

We do not yet have any statement (other than that of the woman, such as a report about the video tape) that indicates an actual rape occurred.

I am not about to condone the actions of any of the bystanders, but I would also be curious what any one of them actually saw. Did anyone watch while a rape occurred? Or is it more a case that different people at different times walked past a couple having a loud, (drunken?) argument in a hallway? If the bystanders never happened to see the woman being beaten down, they might not have thought it prudent to interfere in a “domestic squabble.”

If any of the observers actually saw the physical rape (or even the woman on the ground with the man beating her), then I would hope that the prosecutor would bring charges based on whatever laws might apply. However, it is interesting that the reporter mentions the Kitty Genovese case, given the not quite accurate depiction of that event that has made it into the public consciousness.

The alleged rapist’s name is Rage Ibrahim.

I agree, tomndeb – I know, we still need to wait and see how things play out, once the facts are out. I do wonder, however, at what people did hear, and what the did see if the cops are being quite this forward with the media.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Still… the bystander effect comes up every now and then - probably more often than we care to admit - and I do sometimes wonder what it says about us, as a whole.

Since there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of rape even in the preliminary reporting of the story, I’m also banking on the fact that the “bystanders” might have gotten used to this particular couple fighting each other a lot.

1983 – Cheryl Araujo is gang raped on a pool table in Big Dan’s Taven in New Bedford, Mass.

One of the worst parts of the story is how much of the public in the area found it to be all her fault.

I got the sense from this article that she’d just met him:

(In response to the poster who said that maybe people had gotten used to them fighting a lot.) Then again, it’s not exactly clear if they were a couple or not…

Sorry for the hijack, but what exactly is (RO?) mean? I see it in two thread titles on the first page and I don’t recall ever seeing it before.

“Recreational Outrage”

Well, if it makes you feel any better, the following happened last night - note, I live in a ground-floor apartment in NYC, around the corner from several gay bars.

I was woken up last night by a man near my window saying “You aren’t going to call the police. You just aren’t. Besides, they wouldn’t believe you. And it doesn’t really hurt.” This set off all kinds of alarm bells for me, obviously. I walked to the window and looked out, and the man in question was trying to stop his boyfriend’s bleeding. Boyfriend was trying to get away from him. A minute or two later, boyfriend started walking down the block to get away, and I lost sight of them, but I could still hear the man screaming “You don’t dare walk away from me” and “You don’t call anyone”. So I called the cops myself.

I don’t think they caught up with these guys, because the cops called me back later to ask where the disturbance was, but I did try. So people do respond, sometimes.


I believe that. I also believe that the bystander effect is real–sort of an inverted mob reaction. If everyone else is behaving in a certain way (or failing to react in a certain way), then a person tends to think that the other people have more knowledge and that person follws that lead.

I have even encountered that in situations following accidents where no person-on-person violence was going on. If the first couple of people on the scene do not go to the aid of the injured, later people seem to think there is a reason why no assistance is being offered and tend to shy away from being the first to step forward.

In this particular case, I see enough peculiarities, (30 minute duration, no explicit report of the sexual assault on tape), that I am not ready to engage in any Recreational Outrage without a bit more information. That does not mean that I believe all the witness were outstanding examples of civic responsibility.

This was not the “bystander effect”.

The crime occurred in a building occupied mainly by Somali immigrants, and the witnesses seem to have all been Somali Muslims.

That is a patriarchal, male-dominated culture where women are expected to obey men and not to talk back. The witnesses apparently agree with that thinking, and thought nothing about him beating and/or raping a woman. The police were not called until her screaming got so loud that it was disturbing nearby residents.

Unfortunately, the Somali culture in this area seems to be about a hundred years backward from most of Minneapolis & St. Paul. They haven’t had a “womens’ rights” movement yet.

Last year, there was an incident in the Minneapolis schools where a Somali male severely beat his sister in school, because she had been seen speaking to a non-Somali boy in school. Several other Somali boys surrounded them, to try to keep it out of the view of other students, and to keep them from interfering with the beating.

Personally, I think that beating and raping a woman in public (or private, even) is wrong, and a crime. And I don’t care if “that is considered acceptable in our culture”.

Got a link to those reports?

See the Minneapolis Star-Tribune :

or the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

You can find many reports of the status of women in Somali Muslim culture just by Googling that.

The incident in the Minneapolis Schools was reported to me in person by a student I know, who personally witnessed the incident. As far as I know, there are no online sites that report this.

My statement that “personally, that … is wrong” is my own opinion, and I don’t have any cites for that.

I was not challenging the idea that the Somali immigrants have their own culture with any number of clashes with ours. I just had not yet seen any reports that they were refusing to get involved because the man had a “right” to beat the woman, (particularly if they are not a couple). Thanks for the links.

Sometimes with bad effects. My friend Nate was killed when he tried to stop a man beating up his ex-wife. Of course, I don’t know exactly what happened in the garage or how it would have been different if he had just gone to the nearest pay phone and called the police, but I wonder how fear of a situation similar to Nate’s stops some people from acting…

My bullshit detector is going off.

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Hal, I found the second link you provided to be quite informative.

I remember reading about this crime in news magazines just after it happened, like most of America. I was just troubled as the next guy by the accusatory attitude directed at the victim.

It was only when I read your linked article that I made the connection between the location of the crime and the heavily Portuguese New Bedford/Fall River areas of Massachusetts.

Seen in the context of the heavily male-dominated Portuguese society, where a woman was expected to stay home and cook and make babies, it becomes easier to understand exactly why many of the locals responded as they did. Apparently, the women were more harsh on the victim: “Local women have been much more severe on the victim than local men”, and this fits the culture too.

Even men and women in the “machista” Brazilian culture say that Portugal is far worse.

Of course, just because a culture says something is acceptable doesn’t make it right.

I was reminded of a Portuguese man who we knew who was having trouble with his teenage son. His son was constantly defying his father’s authority, getting into drugs and other things his father didn’t approve of. Whenever his father was ready to have it out with him, he threatened to call the police and tell them his father was abusing him.

He told us that the family went for a vacation in Portugal that year. A few days after they arrived, the father calmly explained to his son something to the effect of “You are in my country now and I will treat you the way you deserve. Call the cops if you want and see what they say.” And then he proceeded to beat the tar out of the boy.

I’m not sure if it was a tall tale (perhaps wishful thinking) or not, but it does reveal one area of strong cultural difference.
[/totally off topic]

Well, I guess that was my conclusion, based on what I know about the Somali Muslim culture, and some of the news about this incident.

Some local community activists have given a different reason for witnesses refusing to get involved: that their experiences in Somalia has left them scared and distrustful of any police, even those in America.

I suppose that either (or both) could be the reason ‘why’ they didn’t get involved. It’s hard to determine people’s motivation. Especially when most of these witnesses haven’t been identified or questioned yet.