The homecoming dance rape of a teenager in California has shocked the country. It was not so much the outrage that a teenager could be raped at a school function (although that is part of it). What seems to have stunned the country is the number of spectators to the crime.
At the time of this writing, ABC is reporting that at least 20 people either watched or took part in the rape of a young high school student. This phenomenon is commonly called the "the bystander effect". According to CNN.com the term "bystander effect" came about in the late 1960s when a woman was raped and murdered and no one got help for her.
We don't just hear about the bystander effect in the case of the California homecoming gang rape. The victims of domestic violence that I work with often repeat the same story. They tell me "if only someone who heard my screams had called for help". Getting help for someone who is being victimized is not just the best thing to do it is the right thing to do.
Last Thanksgiving, we heard of a man being trampled at the entrance to a store. Bystanders walked right by. No one is sure if we are seeing more cases or if we are hearing about it more often because of media and internet resources. What can be sure is about is that as Christians we have a clear example that tells us to get involved by getting help.
The parable of the Good Samaritan gives us a Biblical example of how Christians should respond to someone in crisis. In the story a man is beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road by his attackers. Two people went by, saw the man and continued on their way. A third person saw the man and took pity. He tended to the man's wounds and transported him to the safety of an inn. Then the good samaritan continued to provide for the injured man by paying the innkeeper to take care of him.
Today, we can use our cell phones to summon help. This alleviates the need to become physically involved but it does not remove our obligation to get help.
Approximately 2 and a half hours into California homecoming gang rape someone finally had the courage to report the attack. The girl who was victimized is reported to have been found semi-conscious and is now in stable condition at the local hospital.
It may take this young girl and her family many years to overcome what happened to her. They face recovery from the physical and emotional injuries and potentially large medical bills. They also face the trials for those who will be arrested for their part in the California homecoming gang rape.
This probably won't be the last incident of bystander effect that we hear about.As Christians, we should be in prayer for this young girl and for her family. Also, we should be in prayer for the perpetrators of this crime, for their families and for our nation.