Would You Help or Keep Walking?

Emily Stone, a character who is featured in my first two published novels, Compulsion and Dead Game, is a woman who takes it upon herself to get involved and bring criminals to justice.  She risks her own safety and, for the most part, any close relationships as she dedicates her life to tracking down the pedophiles and murderers who plague our neighborhoods.

Even though we may not have the talents or the courage to shadow criminals day and night as Emily does, I know that most of us hope that we would get involved, in some way, if we saw someone being threatened or hurt right in front of us.

This terrible hypothetical was brought to reality recently in China when a two-year-old girl was run over by a truck not once but twice and dozens of people walked by before one woman reached out to rescue the toddler.  While she survived the event, doctors are saying that the girl is in a vegetative state.

Why didn’t someone step in right away to help pull this child to safety?  There is mention of the “volunteer’s dilemma.”  Multiple studies have shown that the people who are witness to a crime or suffering, the less likely they are to get involved individually.  They assume that another bystander will help or that, if they tried to help, they would just get in the way of others more qualified.  Another article mentioned that some people are afraid to get involved because they do not want to be blamed if something further was to go wrong.

Or, perhaps the simple truth is that we have become more callous and the sight of a little girl bleeding on a street isn’t affecting us the way it should.  That’s the scariest possibility of them all, I think.

Have you ever witnessed an accident or a crime and noticed that people hesitated to get involved?  Are there instances in which it is acceptable not to jump in and do what you can to help?

* * *

Blog: www.authorjenniferchase.com/
Website: www.jenniferchase.vpweb.com/
Crime Watch Blog: www.emilystonecrimewatch.wordpress.com/
Book & Crime Talk: www.blogtalkradio.com/jennifer-chase/
Books: Compulsion = Dead Game = Silent Partner = Screenwriting

About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
This entry was posted in crime, Criminology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Would You Help or Keep Walking?

  1. zencherry says:

    Oh heck ya. Gotta get involved regardless of repercussions later on. My grandfather put that idea into us by example. He was a truck driver and stopped his big rig to chase a man with his wrench at the ready because the guy was chasing a naked, screaming woman down a city block. Can’t believe how many people just watched it happen. Grandpa gave up a coat, but I feel, saved a life that day. Worth it.


    • Woohoo! Right on Grandpa! 🙂 Now, I don’t think every situation means you have to literally jump in because of certain dangers, but we have to get involved on some level. For me personally… I’d jump in too regardless of reprocussions later on too.


  2. Well I would help in the situation above but if someone were drowning, for example, I wouldn’t help probably. That sounds bad, but I’m a pretty terrible swimmer, and would probably just end up drowning myself and not saving the person in danger. Better strategy to run and get help, in that case, because people who drown are notoriously difficult to safely rescue.

    Legally you don’t have a duty to rescue anyone, in the US anyway, so you can just sit back and do nothing. Unless they are a family member or one of the other narrow exceptions. The assumption is we don’t want to force people to help, and hopefully most people will. Maybe we should rethink that, given the Kitty Genovese case (the most famous volunteer’s dilemma case) and give people who try to rescue tort immunity so they would be more likely to help. Interesting post 🙂


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  4. Jason says:

    I think a lot of us become appalled at this type of story, but in a real-life tense situation, the bystander effect can be a lot stronger than you’d predict. It’s definitely not that they refuse to help, but something about that larger group just messes with people’s decision making and they all defer to someone else.


  5. I have stopped to help people – I have never encountered a life-threatening situation (luckily), but I’ve stopped to help people by the side of the road. I have been helped by others in similar situations, too, more than once.
    I do have to credit my wife and son, who saw a disabled lady who had fallen out of her motorized chair on the sidewalk. People drove or walked past, and my family were the only ones who helped the lady back into her chair.


    • Scott, it’s not often when it’s life threatening, but just the act of helping someone in need that’s so important. Nice to know that you and your family care! Thanks for your comment.


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