“See no evil. Say no evil. Hear no evil.” A Japanese-Buddhist proverb.
“Report no evil.” The witness credo.
There is an urban legend about a woman in New York City who was mugged - a robbery with the threat of physical injury - and raped in an alleyway between two apartment buildings. There were, according to the version I know, at least thirty people who witnessed the crime and did nothing. No one called the police. No one went to her aid.
However, this is not a myth. Ignoring a crime in progress by a passerby or witness is not limed to the Big Apple. In August of 2007, a woman was mugged and raped in the hallway of an apartment complex. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune reported that as many as “10 people in the St. Paul apartment building saw a man attack a woman - but did nothing.”
Even closer to home, two incidents clearly show that the “See no evil – Say no evil – Hear no evil – Report no evil” extends to the middle of Middle America. Adam Taylor was attacked in 2009 in a garage in downtown Columbia. His story was the power behind our new ordinance concerning downtown security cameras. However, there was an eye-witness to the beating who did nothing.
Watch the video on the Keep Columbia Safe Web site and you clearly see a witness to the crime simply look and then walk away. He is not a 90 pound weakling, but a muscular man, about six-foot tall, who watched the attack and did nothing about it. In fact, there may be other witnesses, parking or retrieving their cars, who have not come forward.
The only witness that reported anything was the cameras. Even then, the “luck” was on Adam’s side. Five feet further into the garage and even the cameras would have not seen the beating.
A student called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that her daughter was severely beaten at the Petro-Mart in southeast Columbia. The assumed reason for the attack is that she is an American of African descent. Three witnesses worked with the police providing the description of the person who beat the young woman. He was arrested.
In Adam’s case, the witness acted immorally, without valor, by not stepping in to help a fellow human from further injury, or running to the corner tavern to call for help. The attack, at least the subsequent attacks, could have been prevented.
Most bullies will back down when confronted. It would not have taken more than a few strong and loud words to disrupt the attack.
I wondered how often incidents like Adam’s go unreported by witnesses. I called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Justice and the Missouri Department of Public Safety. The FBI told me they do not keep those statistics. The DOJ and MO-DPS have not gotten back to me. In fact, after two-hours of calling around the United States and surfing the net, it seems that there may be no statistics of how many witnesses 1) do not report a crime while it is occurring, 2) refuse to cooperate with police or, 3) just walk by as if nothing is happening.
I spoke with Officer Jessie Haden of the Columbia Police Department. She told me that a large percentage of witnesses who call the Crime Stoppers line do not care about the reward. They just do not want to get directly involved. I think one’s conscience overrides the shame of not doing something.
There is a level of fear and or intimidation in “foiling” an attack and I am not telling you to dive in head first. However, you can at least make the call to 911.
If you’re the guy in the video, you owe Adam an apology for not intervening. You are now the new poster child for the “How Not To Do the Right Thing” campaign.
Aikido Master Morihei Ueshiba wrote “The Art of Peace.” General Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.” Both say the same thing. Bravery in battle is valor. Valor to save another is divine.
David Rosman is a award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at the New York Journal of Books and InkandVoice.com.