Headlines Witnesses Frozen by Fear


Raging Hermaphrodite
LA PRESSE, July 24 2004

"Stop! Stop!" I won't do it anymore! I promise!"

In the middle of boulevard St-Laurent, next to Sainte-Catherine street, at 6:30 PM, a woman pulls on the hair of another woman, who pleads her to stop. The victim is barefoot, her pink sandals lay in the middle of the street along with her belongings - earrings, a pack of gum, a plastic bag with the ID cards, and a condom.

On each side of the street, bypassers begin to crowd. Drivers go around the scene by the left or the right, depending on which side of the road the women are. And no one intervenes.

The first letrs go of the other's hair, who stumbles towards a lamp post, at the southeastern corner of the famous intersection. She has medium-long hair, light brown, an orange shirt and blue jeans. The one who pulled on her hair is now accompanied by another woman and a man. The three approach the woman sitting on the ground. Her nose is bleeding, she opens eyes full of terror and can't get herself to get up.

The insults start to rain. It's about clothes, that the man had bought for one of the women and that the victim was wearing that day. Then, punches and kicks. The victim tries to shield herself as much as she can. One of the assailants takes her ID cards and shoves them down a sewer grate.

A small crowd stands petrified, observing the scene. There is an immense uneasiness floating among the witnesses. A cyclist attempts to stop the fight alone, in vain.

"Let's take off her clothes!" Someone shouts.

The assailants drop upon the victim and rip away at her jeans and drag her on the ground. After having dealt a few more kicks and insults, they clamly leave towards a bar on Saint-Laurent boulevard, without being bugged by anyone about this, leaving the woman half-naked, lying on the sidewalk.

It's only at that moment that four or five people, including a doctor, help the woman, who is now in a state of crisis, screaming and struggling on the ground. Her long white legs, her thighs and her rump covered with dust. Someone has laid a white towel on her sex.

"Where the fuck is the police?!" someone complains. Eons later, a police cruiser and an ambulance arrive on the scene.

A young man runs towards the cops before they can even approach the victim. "Where the hell were you?! Someone almost got killed out there and it took you 20 minutes to get here!!"

Twenty minutes? The registers at Urgences Santé say that a vehicle was called at 6:37, and that the ambulance arrived five minutes later, at 6:42, along with the police. But for the spectators, the wait was unbearable. Many witnesses share the young man's anger.

"The police try what they can!" The cyclist intervenes. "They're caught in traffic too. They don't drive airplanes you know!"

The ambulance drivers have taken the victim away and the policemen took the reports of the witnesses. The assailants are nowhere to be found. "They must have gotten out the back door..." Says a policeman.

The witnesses are now many who want to give their version of the facts while a few minutes earlier, no one was doing anything. "People are so used to violence and TV news... When it happens for real, they think they are watching TV!" Says the cyclist.

"No, it's the opposite," says psychologist Martin Courcy. "People are too sensible. They are afraid and lack courage."

The judgement is heavy, but Martin Courcy persists: "Courage is no longer an important value in today's society. Courageous people are few now..."

A famous case happened in New York in 1964 and allowed psychologists to to explain the behavior of witnesses in front of such events. Kitty Genovese, a young woman of 28 years of age, was desesperately calling for help while a man was stabbing her in an apartment building. "There were people in apartments," says Mr. Courcy. "Someone finally shouted to the guy to let her go."

The aggressor fled. Kitty Genovese was left alone in the dark, crying from her wounds. But no one came. She managed to get up and drag herself towards the door of the building when the aggressor came a second time and stabbed her again. The neighbors once again heard the victim but no one came out. Some thought about calling the police, but they thought someone had done so already. The aggressor had the time to come back a third time and finish her off, to then calmly drive away in his car.

Why didn't anyone intervene? At the trial, experts first blamed "the indifference of great cities". "Finally, studies showed this wasn't the case." Said Martin Courcy.

"First, witnesses always wait for someone else to intervene. They thing that there's someone in the crowd who will step in. But this doesn't happen. Everyone just watches." It's not that people don't want to intervene, it's that they don't dare to.

"Also, lots of people don't want to have trouble with the police, filling out reports and all. This happens very often."

In light of this portrait of the recent fight, Martin Courcy notes that the anger of the witnesses could be explained by the fact that "they realized they hadn't done anything about it. Instead of living their guilt, they blame it on the police."

This raises the delicate question of assisting a person in need, as told by the Civilian Code. Could the witnesses possibly get sued for negligence?

"No one is obliged to put themselves in danger," says lawyer Julius Grey. An adult who knows how to swim sees a child in danger of drowning, and doesn't do anything for fear of drowning himself is not very credible. "But taking part in a fight is more delicate, since a person can honestly say he or she is afraid."

The cyclist says she wasn't afraid of butting in. "I've done the streets as well, I've been beaten too." Says the woman who wants to keep her anonimity. "See my face? Those scars? Once, all my bones had been broken. But I lived to tell about it. Those people don't impress me. I've seen lots. But when I see someone getting beaten this way, it pisses me off! Poor woman..."

Not a single formal complaint was filed, no one was arrested. The police didn't even write down a report about the event, according to the Police Service of the City of Montreal. At 7:00 PM, thursday, the policemen and ambulance were already gone, the crowd has dispersed. Life in the Red Light had resumed its course.

Black Flame

Mayhem on the Loose
holy shit. i read about that other story in psychology class. that is absolutely insane! jesus.. it makes me wish i was there.. people are such fucking cowards, christ!


Hella Constipated
People are cowards...I cannot fight, am overweight, but I definitely would have intervened. I would have rounded up about 8 or 10 people and we would all take on those fighters, and we would have pinned them down and waited for the cops to come.

How would I round up these people? Simple. You tell them "It's two of them versus eight of us, now tell me how we cannot win, especially when they are unarmed?!"

Simply put, those violent beings would know what it is like to be the victim of their own treatment. Fight fire with fire, but only when there is no water around.


lexicon incognito
i studied the kitty genovese story in a sociology class. people really do suck. they called it "diffusion of blame" or something like that. where people think "oh, someone else will take care of it."

the first story makes me sick. i would have been the first one to fire shots into the air, felony aside, to break up the fight.

it's really just one more good case for concealed carry.


honestly i would have kicked the shit outta this fuckin person... but in not a city folk, im a country boy ;)


Asshole of the Year
Shit are people really that prudish? I mean hell if I was walking down the street and saw some woman getting the shit beat out of her I'd have to stop and try to help, its just in my nature. I mean seriously whats wrong with people today, if you were getting the shit beat out of you and people were just standing around you would be fucking pissed that no one is even trying to help you, yet if they are watching someone get fucked over they just stande there in awe and watch and wait for the police to get there...WTF?!?!?!


They want someone ELSE to help the girl for them. That or someone would have to start helping first before they help. Sorta like one person starts something and they all jump on the band wagon....


That Guy
i woulda stepped in and ripped those fuckers apart... they may be stronger than me, but i don't give a shit... feel the rage