A story that continues to trouble me, since first hearing it in an undergraduate psychology class some twenty years ago, is the murder of a woman named Kitty Genovese. It was New York City in 1964. Kitty, a young woman from Queens, was stabbed to death. But this was no ordinary murder. She was chased by her assailant and attacked three times on the street, over the course of half an hour, while 38 of her neighbours watched from their windows. During the entire half-hour ordeal, not a single one of them came to her aid or rescue. They didn’t shout out or call for help. They didn’t even bother to pick up the phone and call the police. As one reporter on the death of Moseley noted, her murder ‘came to symbolise… indifference.’
I met the face of indifference last week when I asked a faith leader to tell us his reason why people do help someone being harmed and, he replied, ‘what’s the point; it’s not like we can change anything.’ This was backed by a mistaken belief that ‘all suffering is God’s will’ and, closely followed by, ‘I have no personal responsibility to act’ – otherwise known as the sin of omission. That is, few of us actively harm others. But all of us, I suspect, have failed to help. In the language of the Good Samaritan, we have ‘passed by on the other side.’ Millions of acts of kindness and help passed over day after day.
If everyday evil has a reason to prosper – it is when I know the good I ought to do and don’t do it. James 4:17.
Between Jan and May 25, 2016, 32 women are dead (Counting Dead Women Australia) and, in most cases, by someone known to them. Faith communities have an important job. Preventing family violence and, violence toward women, is not just the responsibility of governments; it is each persons responsibility and, collectively, the call of all faith communities to step in when we witness intimidation, bullying, harassment, abuse and violence.
Here’s your chance to break through bystanding. Our training helps people to effectively and safely call each other out; to confront abuses when they occur. Our workshops offer skill-building opportunities – helping men and women to a point of having many options for action with only one wrong answer – and that is ‘to do nothing.’