Our View: Don’t just stand there

DKS Editors

A man asphyxiated to death while trying to enter his apartment in the Near East Side a week ago in Columbus. Forty-five-year-old Jack Kasler accidentally locked himself out of his apartment, broke a window and attempted to climb through. He got stuck. The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that Kasler could have been hanging there, calling for help for a few minutes or as long as an hour.

Yet no one came to his aid. One woman said she saw him break the window and try to climb inside over a piece of wood that covered part of the window. When she came back 20 minutes later, Kasler had died. Her son called 911 when he realized Kasler wasn’t breathing, but it was too late. More people may have observed Kasler’s distress and done nothing.

This phenomenon has been documented by psychologists as “the bystander effect” or “Genovese syndrome.” People are less likely to respond to an emergency if others are present they think that the others will be the ones to help, so no one does.

The term comes from a famous murder in 1964 when 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was repeatedly stabbed by a random attacker in front of her apartment in Queens. Many people, who could see that others were also observing, watched as Genovese’s assailant returned twice before he finished her off.

A neighbor only called the police about an hour after the attack first occurred. Again, it was too late. At least 38 people had seen part of the attacks, but the police were not called until she had died.

In both of these situations, perhaps people were afraid to get involved, or they assumed that someone else would do it. It’s a disturbing insight into the possibilities of human nature.

These are extreme cases, but how many of us, upon seeing someone in possible distress are unsure if or how we should help? We might assume a more competent person should be the one to do it. We might assume that the person has more sinister motives and is trying to dupe us. But what is the harm in ensuring that competent help, such as police or paramedics is on the way?

We all live busy lives, and all of our schedules are tightly packed. But just because we’re college students it doesn’t mean we can’t be thoughtful and considerate human beings. It definitely can’t hurt. After all, it might prevent another tragedy.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.