Don’t Be an Apathetic Bystander, Stand Up For What’s Right


by Tiffany Van Volkinburg

Bystander apathy is a psychological phenomenon that could cost a person their life, simply through the inactions of others. It is merely the act of doing nothing in an emergency situation because no one else is doing anything either.

According to an article by, a 79-year-old man, Angel Torres, died in May of 2009 when removed from his life support; life support he was put on after he was left paralyzed and mute when he was hit by a car in a hit-and-run accident. This man was left lying in the street while people walked past him, and traffic was not even stopped.

It seems absurd that people would witness an elderly man be hit by a car – who was then paralyzed in the street – and continue walking. A single pebble can stir a lake, and this ripple effect could have been the occurrence that saved Torres’ life. The effects of bystander apathy are mind boggling, which presents the question of whether or not you could stand by and witness such inhumanity.

In another instance, as told by NDTV, in October of 2009, a 15-year-old girl from the San Francisco Bay area was gang raped for two and a half hours, outside of her school’s homecoming dance, while an estimated two dozen people walked by or stopped and watched. None of these witnesses notified the police while 10 people – give or take – raped this girl for hours. Of these 10, only five were caught and convicted. She was found half-unconscious and naked from the waist down by a picnic table near the gymnasium.

How is it that 24 people witnessed this girl being beaten and violently attacked, and still nobody called the authorities? It was reported, that some even stood by and cheered the attackers on. That mob mentality and lack of human compassion from these observers resulted in a two and a half hour assault for the victim.

What would have happened to these two victims had somebody just spoken up? Would Angel Torres still be alive today? Could a brutal assault have been prevented? These answers will always be a mystery.

Placing myself in the position of the bystanders, I could not possibly imagine witnessing these two atrocities and being inactive in lending a hand. Had one person simply walked over to Torres to offer help, or called the police the moment they noticed this assault taking place in that alley, others may have followed suit. If people do not collectively band together to uphold this concept we’ve named humanity, bystander apathy will continue to plague our nation.