Kitty Genovese: March 13, 1964
Today, 45 years ago, a beautiful young woman was sexually assaulted and stabbedÂ in New York. The assault lasted half an hour, and occurred outside of an apartment building whereÂ 38 witnesses either heard or saw the attack and did nothing to stop it.
They did nothing.
It was not reported at the time, but Kitty was also a lesbian, and left behind a bereaved partner.
Her story has come into the media again because of Watchmen–Many people think it is part of the fiction of the book.
It isn’t.Â Alan Moore has a reprint of a newspaper story of the time on his website.
Wired has a very nice discussion of all the various social science theories that grew out of this event. Two examples:
- Pluralistic ignorance
Collective inaction by a large group encourages individuals within the group to accept that nothing is seriously amiss (“nobody else thinks it’s serious”), even when his gut tells him otherwise.
- Diffusion of responsibility
People have a tendency to avoid taking responsibility in critical situations, instead relying on another person to step up (“someone else is in charge” or “someone else is better able to deal with this”). The assumption that someone will do so becomes more pronounced in larger groups.
I have chosen to be open about my status as a rape survivor because I don’t think it’s something I should be ashamed of. I didn’t make it happen–it just happened.Â Also, as someone who has the benefit of 20+ years of time and healing, I can say things that more recent survivors may not be able to.
What I want to know is: What are YOU doing to prevent this from happening again? Or about any violence against women?
Don’t deny the little feeling in your gut that says “uh oh.”
Don’t place all the responsibility for preventing rape on women, by restricting our movements and making us live in fear.
Challenge the Rape Culture.
Just as the brilliant Ill*Doctrine says we need to call people out when they say things that sound racist, please make sure you speak up when anyone is making light of violence against women, or joking about “raping” someone or anyone.
You can make a difference.