Thursday, 2 September 2010


A few years ago I has having a drink with 47 and some of his weird friends from university in the back garden of a pub in Canterbury when there were the calls from a girl in the alleyway next to the pub. They were all clearly quite distressed, and they were all along the lines of "get away from me!", "leave me alone!" and "let go of me!" I an't recall whether the voice shouted "help!", but maybe it did. Eventually, the voice grew quieter, as if she had been dragged away.

I didn't do anything. Nor did 47 or anyone else. We exchanged glances and carried on talking.

It's a few years on and I still can't believe that I acted the way I did. Maybe there wasn't anything I could have done, but I could have at least looked. There was a fence separating the pub garden and the alleyway which I could have peeked over in order to see what the fracas was about. I could have at least said something to 47 and we could have looked together. I could have shouted. But I did nothing, because nobody else did anything.

Reverse crowd mentality.

I didn't know and never will know what it was. It may have been a trap - there was no second voice, and it could have easily (since it was next to a pub) been a set-up for an easy mugging of any kind passer-by who would attempt to intervene. But then, a big part of me knows that's a very unlikely possibility, and the guilty bit of my brain - the one that usually speaks in my own voice - consistently calls up the possibilities.

I could have stopped an abduction.
I could have stopped a mugging.
I could have stopped a rape.

And I'll never, ever know what it was I didn't look at. And I'll never know why I didn't.

I hate guilt.


Anna said...

Wow, what a confession...

I can't say anything to comfort you, sadly, but I can say that this phenomenon is not unheard of. There was an attack on a woman called Kitty Genovese that is described in the book "The Tipping Point" , of which there were 38 witnesses, none of whom called the police.

Read the excerpt here if you're interested, it's about the sociological influences of large numbers of witnesses.
Although it probably won't change your feelings of guilt, it might help to explain what happened. x

Innocent Loverboy said...

Thanks, I'll have a read.