Steffanie Rivers

*When I was in school I never could stand by and watch a bully in action, especially the ones who verbally ridiculed their victims in front of a crowd. And I sometimes put myself in harm’s way trying to protect someone who seemed unable to protect themselves.

So when I saw the CNN video last week of two Seattle area teens fighting along a public street as three security guards and other witnesses watched without intervening I couldn’t help but wonder the circumstances behind it.

Teenagers are not the best communicators. So it’s no surprise to me to see two girls fight. But what caught me off guard was the violent nature of the fight and the lack of intervention on the part of security guards who witnessed it.

It happened near a Seattle area bus terminal. After the attack the 15-year old victim told police a group of other teens first approached her in a transit tunnel. So she ran outside of the tunnel to the area where security guards stood because she thought they would protect her. She was wrong.

The video showed someone attacking the girl. After she was thrown to the ground she was kicked about the head. The fight took place for at least two minutes. And the three guards did nothing to stop the beating, even though one of them was within arm’s length of them. After the attacker stopped the beating someone else is seen running to the victim and taking her purse as she laid on the ground. Although there was no audio, one of the guards appeared to call for backup on his portable radio.

Back up? Why would an adult male who is healthy enough to work as a security guard need back up for two teenage girls in a fight when no weapons were involved? If anything, the other two security guards who also witnessed the attack should have been his back up. And the other passers-by who did nothing also could have pulled the two girls apart. But there wasn’t one person compelled to stop the beating.

It turns out the guards were just following orders.
The company that hired the guards said the men were not allowed to stop an event. They only were supposed to request back up and be able to give an account of what happened to police when they arrived.

Isn’t that what regular people do who don’t have ‘Security’ written on their shirts? And if a security guard is not allowed to stop a fight between teen age girls what good is he? I say no good. Why bother paying three grown men to give an eye witness account when the video clearly does that?

There have been too many instances where a person clearly in distress and in need of help received none from passersby. Psychologists call it the ‘diffusion of responsibility’ syndrome. It’s when people who are in a position to help a victim stand by waiting for someone else to offer help. And it’s another example of how emotionally detached some people have become when it comes to people they don’t know. I’m not sure if any of the witnesses to the attack have children, but I doubt they would have allowed their friend or family members to be attacked without intervention.

With the passing of each generation it seems we are moving farther away from the community concept where people offer assistance even when they don’t know you. And I am saddened by it. It seems common sense ain’t so common anymore and people with compassion for their fellow man are a dying breed.

Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie Rivers at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at www.youtube.com/steffanierivers.