The murder of Kitty Genovese outside her home in in Queens in 1964 is shocking for more than one reason. Not only was the murder random and senseless, but the attack went on for 30 minutes and although 38 people witnessed it happening, nobody bothered to intervene or even call the police to report it.
Genovese was a bartender who was returning home from work at around 3 a.m. on the night she was killed. Winston Moseley attacked the young woman and stabbed her in the back. A neighbor saw the attack and yelled from his window, "hey leave that girl alone." Moseley fled the scene but later returned to find Genovese at the back of her apartment entrance.
He then stabbed her several more times and raped her as she lay dying. The stab wounds on her hands suggested that she had tried to defend herself from the second round of stabs. Mosely also stole $49 from her. One neighbor, Sophia Farrar who lived in a nearby apartment, found Genovese as she was dying and stayed by her side.
After the attack had ended, a neighbor finally called the police. The police and an ambulance were quick to arrive on the scene but Moseley was gone and Genovese died en route to the hospital.
The crime became an example of the bystander effect, a phenomenon where people are aware that what they are seeing is wrong but for some reason are unable or unwilling to do anything to stop it. Newspapers during the time called the crime a sign of the times.
The case "caught the spirit of the time," said Thomas Reppetto, a police historian. "It seemed to symbolize that society no longer cared about other people."
Moseley was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, a punishment later reduced to life in prison. He is now 79 and still incarcerated.
The crime has inspired several books and a documentary that is currently in the works called "The Witness." ''She wasn't just a victim." It has also inspired many people to study the bystander effect to better understand the phenomenon and why it occurs.
Why do you think nobody helped Kitty Genovese during the attack?
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