Writer: Robert Cohen
|In 1964, Kitty Genovese was raped and murdered outside an apartment complex in Queens while 37 witnesses looked on. Though the attack lasted over 30 minutes, none of the witnesses called the police or intervened in any way until she was already dead. Bystander is a fictional account of the aftermath of this attack, but the scientific research and theories it includes are historically and psychologically accurate.
Bystander focuses on Daniel Swingley, the psychological researcher who studies the phenomenon of the 37 witnesses, interviewing them and recreating the situation in a lab to determine why no one did anything to help. He quickly learns that people are less likely to offer assistance when more bystanders are present—a breakthrough theory at the time—but he doesn’t stop there.
As Swingley gets immersed in the study, his research partner, John Darley, begins to question his motives. Does Swingley really just want to advance the theory and help potential victims, or does he have more personal interests—like trying to assuage his own guilty conscience? Can Swingley and Darley put their research ahead of their personal agendas? The answers—and the unintended consequences—surprise them both.