Note: We ran this two part post by Adriana in April of 2011. For those of you unfamiliar with the Kitty Genovese story, she is a young woman who was stabbed, left for dead, her screams unanswered, her attacker returned, she was raped and finally stabbed to death in Queens, New York in 1964. Bystanders who heard her screams did nothing. Did. Nothing. Sound familiar? Her death coined the phrase, "the bystander effect," whereby good people.... do nothing. To read more about her legacy click here. We bring the posts back in October 0f 2017 because of the current climate of sociopolitics. At Age of Autism and elsewhere, we live the Bystander Effect every single day. Our cries for our children fall on indifferent ears. Part 2 will run tomorrow.
When Adriana wrote this post I had yet to step onto a karate mat as a white belt. Now, 8 years later, I have two black belts in two martial arts, Shito Ryu Karate and Matayoshi Kobudo (a 19 weapons Okinawan fighting art.) I teach self defense to women and men and we tell students to yell "Fire!" because "Help" may fall on indifferent ears. That is part of Ms. Genovese's legacy. Protecting others. Just as we do here at Age of Autism.
Thank you to Adriana for her brilliant essay.
By Adriana Gamondes
Read Part 1 HERE.
We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
What I mostly learned from advocacy for domestic violence survivors which applied to my children’s injuries was a partial answer to the haunting question: why us? I thought my husband and I had been good people and we’d even tried to help others. I didn’t drink or take drugs during pregnancy; I followed doctors’ orders, ate mostly organic, used only nontoxic household products, even “thought good thoughts”. Our children are everything to us. They weren’t born prematurely. They developed normally for a year. Then, moreover, why was virtually no one outside our family or outside the “movement” willing to effectively help our kids once they did become ill? They’re innocent; why them? Why anyone?
Explanations of industrial greed, regulatory capture, government corruption, gene/environment interplay and toxic mechanisms aside, the general answer is A) because sometimes bad things happen to good people and, though there is often a reason for this, it’s mostly not a good reason and never a justification; and B) often few will help in the right way, in the way that is being asked for because many inactive or negative bystanders don’t believe that “A” is true. Not really, not in their heart of hearts. Instead they believe, mostly unconsciously, that bad things happen to bad people.
And that brings up the question: why Kitty Genovese? Why did her family and her girlfriend have to suffer loss? In moving interviews, Kitty’s brother Vincent described decades of flashbacks and her partner, Mary Ann Zielonko, said, “I still have a lot of anger towards people because they could have saved her life…That’s the lesson to be learned from this: to really love each other— we have to— on this planet.”( HERE ). Kitty Genovese was, by all accounts, a vibrant and loving person.
The prevailing negative attitudes about rape victims and victims of domestic violence were similar at the time of Kitty Genovese’s murder, though if openly used as rationales for inaction, ignoring a stranger rape in progress would have been deemed more shameful, whereas refusing to “butt in on” a “lover’s quarrel” could be seen as a somewhat less shameful—even acceptable-- position. Never mind that parsing up varying degrees of “innocence” between categories of victims is a giveaway that dangerous discrimination is afoot, the fact that Genovese’s attacker was unknown to her might have mattered just enough to bystanders to have driven—if just barely— one more call to police. As I already mentioned, I tend to think that bystanders were being frank when they described the judgment call they made in place of calls to the police--- that many assumed the screams were from a domestic violence assault, a crime which is hundreds of times more common than stranger rape. Aside from the fact that police, again, are statistically most likely to be killed while interrupting a domestic violence incident and it’s a crime which is particularly unsafe for bystanders to intervene in, there are specific social assumptions about “inherent” traits that battered women supposedly possess which make them viewed as more or less dispensable if not “bad”.
I believe the first part of the attack occurred because Kitty Genovese was a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time and evil exists. I believe the second, deadly part of the assault occurred because killer Winton Mosely—when he returned and saw that no help for his prey was at hand— had been trained since birth to understand the dynamics of the situation and knew precisely how much screaming and pleas bystanders would “stand by for” before being moved to action. Kitty Genovese literally died of “second injuries”—those induced by a typically inadequate or punitive social response to certain types of crimes.
It may not be happenstance that, just three years ago, Mosely explained to a parole board that his murderous compulsions resulted from growing up with domestic violence ( HERE). Sometimes an excuse and a reason are the same thing (i.e., “thimerosal is cheap”). From seeing his mother repeatedly battered and stalked by his father from infancy until the day Mosely went to jail for murder, Mosely would have known that, no matter how victims screamed, help was rarely or never forthcoming: he understood the nature of bystanders. Mosely did not get leniency by this admission and should not have. Another individual with the same background could have made the reverse choice. But the information might still provide insight into the dynamics of the event; that it was, in the final analysis, a “relationship crime”, defined by a psychological interaction between killer and bystanders which was far more complex than the interaction between killer and victim. Predicting what the victim would do was easy in comparison: when stabbed, she would fall and she would die.
Kitty Genovese could not have known that self-defense instructors in the future would invoke her name when they urged women to scream “fire”, never “help” in response to attack. Why “fire” and not “help” to overcome bystander apathy? Why must vaccine injury claimants file for “Seizures and Encephalitis” or “mitochondrial disease” instead of “autism”?
It’s not actually the science or the independent scientists that are the problem in viewing autism as a possible result of vaccine injuries. 74% of studies on thimerosal and autism support a link. The Lancet paper has been replicated in five countries and Brian Deer was paid by industry. “Transfer factor” was not a rival vaccine but akin to goat’s milk— and the patent for it never belonged to Andrew Wakefield. Dr. Wakefield never kept a dime of “lawyer money” but donated it to the Royal Free. There’s documented proof Lancet researchers could not have altered patient records. The O’Leary lab has been cleared and Poul Thorsen has not been (HERE).
In the case of domestic violence, negative attitudes towards victims backed up by clinical victim blaming also persist in the face of all evidence to the contrary and in the face of clear biases of clinical “blame purveyors”. Things are not getting better in that arena: an entry in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) has outdone even the past diagnostic “blame-laying” under the heading of “relational disorders”. Relational disorders are those which are said, quite controversially, to arise from the dynamics of a relationship while both parties may not necessarily suffer from disordered personalities. This is supposedly an improvement over former marginal entries into the DSM, such as “psychological deficiency disorder”, as if the panel had said, “Now we’re not saying victims have anything wrong with them. We’re just saying that they have as much or as little wrong with them as perpetrators.” The new proposals are “Marital Abuse Disorder” or, alternately, “Marital Conflict Disorder With Violence”—the idea being that it was the relationship’s dynamics which “caused” the violence, effectively splitting/removing blame equally between two parties, “takes two to tango” style. It’s minimizing at best (to equivocate chronic, injurious battering to the one time an average couple, say, got drunk and shoved each other)— and a lethal call for noninterventionism at worst. The diagnosis could easily be used to justify the removal of children from the custody of evident victims. Though supposedly “no fault”, if this thinking is extrapolated to other crimes, the “borrowing from Peter (laying partial responsibility on victims or “borrowing some of their innocence”) to pay Paul (to remove an equivalent degree of responsibility from perpetrators and bequeath them with a degree of innocence) would appear grossly unjust. Did Kitty Genovese emit negative astrowaves as she walked to her apartment that Mosely couldn’t help being swept up in? Did captured slaves just have dysfunctional relationships with traders and plantation owners?