I was screaming 'help me, I don't know this man'

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2014
Attack victim Praveet Chahal
MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ
PAINFUL REMINDER: Praveet Chahal suffered a broken nose and a fractured eye socket in the frenzied attack.

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As Praveet Chahal lay bleeding on the ground during a frenzied attack by a stranger on a suburban street, she cried out to bystanders to help her - but no-one moved.

The 40-year-old Auckland woman was out walking near her home in the South Auckland suburb of Papatoetoe at 5.30pm on Thursday when she was attacked by a bottle-wielding man she had never met.

Chahal suffered a broken nose, a fractured eye socket, extensive bruising and spent a night in hospital after the assault, which she says bystanders did nothing to prevent.

One even pushed her away, later telling her he did not help because he thought the man was her partner.

"I can clearly picture this guy in a light blue shirt and a tie and I can still picture him and I am looking directly at him and saying ‘help me', and he is just standing there," she told the Sunday Star-Times.

Chahal, a customer service representative, had arrived home after an uneventful day at work. She was to dine with friends so decided to fit in a quick walk beforehand.

She left home about 5.20pm and was about five minutes into her walk when she heard a loud scream.

"I didn't really pay much attention because it was broad daylight. There were noises everywhere you wouldn't think much of it.

"The next thing, when I turned around I saw a man coming straight towards me with a bottle."

Her first reaction was to shield her face as the man went to strike her but he quickly started raining punches on to her face.

She sought help from a couple who were washing their car in a nearby driveway.

"I was screaming 'help me, help me. I don't know this man'.

"The guy wouldn't help - he kept saying to me, 'don't come here'. I still went because I needed help so I went behind him. He pushed me away and started running.

"I ran towards the woman as well but she was running away. [The attacker] kept hitting me and I fell on the ground. I was screaming, I was yelling for help. A lot of people gathered but they were all just standing there watching while this guy was hitting me and hitting me and hitting me, until the cops arrived."

Chahal said after being treated by ambulance staff she turned and asked the man in the driveway why he hadn't helped her. "He said, 'oh, I thought that was your partner'."

Chahal said she can vividly recall herself lying on the ground crying out for help.

"Any of those people could have helped me. If it was me 10 times over I would have helped someone.'

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"People need to know there is more you can do. And for them to realise it could have been anyone. It could have been their mother or sister."

Chahal spent a night in Middlemore Hospital after her attack. She has little to no feeling in her broken nose but is expected to recover fully.

However, she says the emotional scars will remain. "I feel my freedom has been taken away. As has my faith in the country and people, in everything," she said.

Her alleged attacker has been charged with assault with intent to injure. He was bailed and will reappear in court in February.

Chahal's case follows an outcry in Sydney last week after a 29-year-old woman screamed for help on a busy street as a man tried to drag her into a car. No-one intervened.

THE BYSTANDER EFFECT

This social phenomenon was first researched after the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964. Genovese was stabbed to death and neighbours, despite hearing, did not come to help.

It refers to a situation where people do not help a victim when other people are in attendance.

There have been notable public instances of this in recent times, including when celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was grabbed around the neck by her now ex-husband Charles Saatchi in London.

Closer to home, last January Dunedin man Donald Caley lapsed into a diabetic coma and died. He was noticed by people but none did anything until it was too late.

In China, in perhaps the most distressing case, a 2-year-old girl was knocked down and run over by two vehicles in a crowded street while numerous people passed by, ignoring her.

She was eventually helped but died in hospital eight days later.

- Sunday Star Times

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