Bystander Effect? 10 People See MN Sex Assault, Do Nothing


Police say as many as 10 people witnessed a sexual assault in a St. Paul hallway that was caught on a surveillance video, but no one intervened and the suspect said he has no memory of what happened, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Rage Ibrahim, 25, said he blacked out from drinking too much alcohol. People peeked out of apartment doors to see what was happening. Some started walking down the hallway but retreated after witnessing the assault.

A “bystander effect” might explain why people didn’t help, psychologists say. Members of groups who witness a crime, versus one or two individuals, are less likely to intervene, because they don’t feel individually responsible for what’s happening, studies have found. The culture of many people who live in the building also could have influenced witnesses’ behavior, said Omar Jamal the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul. A large number of residents are Somalis, who tend to mistrust and fear the police. “The only system they know (from Somalia) is a military, totalitarian government that tortures and executes people,” he said. “Their understanding is a system that oppresses and that kills. People have no rights. They are used to keeping quiet and not saying anything.”


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