Unbearable cost of doing nothing

23:02, Jan 20 2014

When you hear a scream for help, is your first instinct that someone else will help the person in need?

Or do you rush to offer your own assistance?

When a 29-year-old woman in Sydney screamed for help as she was being dragged from a busy street into a car by a man last week, dozens of people watched on.

No-one came to her aide; no-one offered her help.

It is a chilling situation, and one that many of us are likely to believe would never happen to us.

In Australia, the "bystander effect" - the belief that someone else will assist while you're frozen by the situation - caused one coroner to highlight the deaths of at least two women as preventable, if onlookers had responded.


We like to think we would do the right thing if we were faced with a similar situation, but like so many things in life, we don't know what we will do until we experience it firsthand.

A recent Manawatu Standard story revealed that domestic violence in Palmerston North rose 45 per cent in the last month of 2013 compared with the previous December.

Our safe houses for women and children are bulging at the seams and our volunteer and support services for families are struggling to cope with the demand for help.

There is a serious problem in our communities, and staying quiet, turning a blind eye, and not getting involved has only fuelled the fire.

It is not enough to assume someone else will help, or that when others are in need of help that it's not our problem.

As a popular Theodore Roosevelt quote states: "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

Manawatu's newest hero Tamsin Duckmanton made those words reality last week when she reacted, saving the lives of two small children trapped in a van fire in a Palmerston North supermarket's car park.

The mother-of-two heard a call for help and reacted immediately, putting her own life at risk.

That decision had a very real and positive result, something that she should rightfully be formally acknowledged for in time.

What these situations show us is that the price of doing nothing can be extremely high, and we need to decide if that is the type of community we want to live in.

Manawatu Standard