Society’s reaction on witnessing crimes: A psychological perspective


No one tried to help the victim, the people passing by the scene of the crime acted merely as mute spectators. Various media sources have published interviews of people who live near the scene of the crime and have been able to identify some reasons why they chose to not help the victim. Some people expressed concern for their own safety, they were worried about getting hurt while trying to save the victim. Some people were expecting others to intervene and so did not make the effort and get involved. This is called the bystander effect. This is a phenomenon wherein people don’t naturally assume responsibility; they take a look around and notice other people’s behaviors and act like them. So, if people around them are being ignorant of what’s happening, they’ll do the same. If no one else is helping, why should I? Their reaction might have been different had they been there alone. They might’ve felt the ones responsible for helping the victim and take some action. It’s the presence of others that influences their actions. They may also be fearful of being judged by those around them. In this case, the witnesses did not even inform the police about the incident for nearly 30 minutes. 

When asked about their thoughts and opinions about the incident, they spoke about how the girl sinned by engaging with someone from another religion. Another individual spoke about how such crimes won’t be committed if people didn’t roam about on their will. Such statements highlight a psychological concept called the just world bias. This concept talks about how the world is a just place and people get exactly what they deserve. Eg. In this case, someone said that the girl deserved it since, she being a Hindu was in a relationship with someone who is a Muslim. The just world bias is subjective and varies from person to person, and could be based on arbitrary factors. And this bias perpetuates victim blaming. Victims are often blamed for what someone else did to them. Eg. In cases of rape, oftentimes, women are blamed for wearing certain kinds of clothes, consuming alcohol, going out late at night, etc and so brought it upon themselves, which is unfair as the perpetrator isn’t held accountable for their actions or the punishment would be given after delay or with leniency.

While we’re on the subject of perpetrators, let’s talk about the psychology of the perpetrator/murderer. People with antisocial personalities could also be associated with such crimes. A very famous example of this would be that of John Wayne Gacy. Some characteristics of this personality type are as follows:

·       No regard for the feelings of others

·       Gross disregard for social norms

·       Inability to establish and maintain healthy relationships

·       Low tolerance of distress, easily resort to aggression

·       No capacity to experience guilt or learn from punishment

·       Tendency to blame others and escape accountability

It’s important to know and understand that traits of personality disorders start from childhood and are carried into adulthood. We need to focus on the healthy development of children and adolescents to nurture them well for their betterment and that of society.