Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Nigella's bully of a husband, and not getting involved

Reports of the public assault by Charles Saatchi on his wife Nigella Lawson, with photos to prove it, have been in the news. Among many opinion pieces was a disgraceful one in the Guardian by Roy Greenslade, who has since thought better of it.

One of the questions that's been asked is why no one did anything about it at the time, other than to take photographs? Saatchi, a very wealthy man who appears to suffer from overweening arrogance, made no attempt to hide his bad behaviour, presumably feeling entitled to behave as he pleases, wherever he pleases. It wouldn't have occurred to him that anyone would interfere, and no one did.

One of the people who's asked why no one got involved is Australian academic Alecia Simmonds, Adjunct lecturer of law at UNSW. She wrote,
No-one called the police and no-one attempted to help her. When asked to comment on the incident a spokesperson for the restaurant said: ‘we do not comment on the private affairs of clients.’ The choice of words is a good indication of why onlookers tolerated a crime in a way they wouldn’t if it were any other crime.
I came across her on Facebook, through a friend, and replied as follows:
Why didn't anyone help? Partly because of their celebrity status, which bestows a sort of immunity, but most people will avoid getting involved in this of of situation anyway.

When my son was a baby we lived on a mobile home site where sound carried unhindered. Late one night, I heard screams. I put my biggest dog (he was half labrador) on his lead and went to investigate. Around the corner, outside the phone box, a young man was kicking his girlfriend, who was lying in the road, while holding their terrified toddler in his arms. Several curtains twitched, but no one else had come out. I told him to stop and he raised his fist as though to hit me, then looked at the dog and thought better of it. He didn't know that the dog was a soft pudding. He went back inside their mobile home with the child while I struggled to get the girl on her feet and dial 999. The girl was taken to hospital by ambulance but (typically) she returned to her abusive partner several days later. They moved soon afterwards so I don't know what happened. All the while, not one neighbour had come to help.
Though it hasn't happened that often, this wasn't the only time that I've got involved with domestic violence incidents, but on each occasion, I was the only one who did help. Bullies are often taken by surprise when anyone stands up to them, and (so far) I've come to no harm. However, a majority of onlookers or eavesdroppers seem to prefer to pretend that whatever's happening has nothing to do with them. This doesn't just apply to domestic violence; it seems to apply to other examples of public bad behaviour and bullying. Yes, it's scary to face someone who's threatening violence, even when he or she isn't threatening you - every time I've done it my heart has been pounding like a sledge-hammer - but wouldn't you want someone to help you, if you were at the receiving end? Perhaps I've been safer than a man might have been, in similar circumstances, as men may be regarded as a bigger threat. When my son went to someone's rescue in a night club, he suffered a broken nose from a head butt for his pains; honourably earned, even if it does make him snore.

This tendency of a majority to avoid getting involved in such situations has been labelled by psychologists the Bystander Effect. One of the worst examples is the 1964 murder of 28-year-old Catherine Genovese, known as Kitty, outside her New York apartment, while 38 of her neighbours witnessed the attack and did nothing to help her. One witness is reported to have said, "I didn't want to get involved."

1 comment:

Pat (in Belgium) said...

I remember the Kitty Genovese story. I was a junior in high school (16) and was terribly shocked by it. Thought what if I needed help and nobody came...and how that must have felt. Horrible!