Friday, April 23News For London

Psychology of hate crime bystanders: Indifference or self-protection?

Onlookers “filmed on phones”, while a South Korean student was undertaking an alleged racist attack on London Oxford Street.

Yeon Jeong Lee, 22, a student at the university in Canterbury, was beaten by up to 10 thugs while she was doing shopping in central London.

What she felt disappointed was the reaction of the passers-by. “It was only two people who were trying to help me out and the rest would just be filming the scene ”, she said.

She also mentioned the slow reaction of the police: “I filed the case over the phone, but they kept repeating the same response and didn’t show up”.



Psychology of passers-by

Why in this case few people are willing to help? What’s the psychology of such indifference? There are different views among young people.

“The conflicts are between what we have been taught to protect ourselves and the initial motivation to help”, a young Londoner told WestminsterWorld.

In terms of the interviews, citizens are seemingly unwilling to get involved in a hate crime. One of the students told WestminsterWorld: “It’s dangerous to help a person being attacked on the street.”

Some also think “It depends on what the situation is… standing by and filming may be annoying, but it may help the victim in the future”.

Our journalist also found people reacted differently when they were asked in different ways. Most people refused to do the interview when the question was “Can you talk about racism in our society?”. But when the question changed into “If you are a witness of a hate crime, what would you do?”, most of them were willing to talk.

Video©Zhenyi Lu

Being taught to protect ourselves?

There are varied ways to report a crime to the police after being assaulted or witnessing the crime. According to the City of London Police website and Citizens Advice, the authority provides Helpline, Equality Advisory Support Service(EASS) and Law centres to help the victims.

But what if the attack is underway? Apart from filming the evidence and report the police after the assault, is there any solution tackling the issue? However, there seem to be very few teachings from the authority about how to fight against the offenders before the crime happens. 

Is hate crime on the rise?

The statistics released by Home Office 2018 show the hate crime is on the rise in the UK. According to it, race hate crimes made up 76% of the total number. The number of race hate crimes increased by 14% between 2016/17 and 2017/18. There is also a climb of violence against the person and public order.

On social media, some say the racial attack in the UK is “just tip of the iceberg”. More than 30,000 people have signed for Lee’s petition on within 2 days. 

Source: Twitter


“Bystander apathy”

Our journalist had a phone interview with Harriet Wichtowski, the counselling psychologist. “I think it is worse now when people tend to absorb themselves in mobile phones or other digital technologies. But usually it is something to do with the number of people who are present on the crime scene and whether or not they get involved… sometimes we do weigh up the cost and the benefits of stopping. It is a very quick process about morality and reality… I think people are more afraid nowadays. The fear comes from the changes in our society now”, she mentioned.

She also advised young students to “do something, don’t do nothing. Even if you are the first one to say “are you okay?”, other people will see it and they might stop and help”.