On Tuesday Nov 11th, the following story narrated by CBC Producer, Tara Henley and featuring the CityU Canada, Director of Vancouver Island, Master of Counselling Program Dr. Allan Wade was aired on CBC’s Metro Morning.
The story had been evoked by an incident Tara experienced late at night on the Toronto subway system the previous week. A person in the subway car in front of Tara’s started yelling and screaming in anguish, eventually rolling on the floor. Passengers were unsure what to do to help. After what seemed to be a very long time, Tara hit the Passenger Alert button (actually a yellow strip) and at the next station subway security entered the car ahead and peacefully escorted the man off the train. Instinctively, Tara began interviewing her fellow passengers.
Later that night Tara was left with some questions. Why had it taken so long to respond? Had she been a part of what is now known as the Bystander Effect – the more people who witness an incident, the less likely anyone will respond? She consulted Allan who is an international expert in the area of violence and social response. Allan carefully reconstructed the incident with Tara. In the course of Allan’s questions Tara recalled all the numerous and subtle interchanges that had taken place between people as the incident had unfolded: someone whispers the idea of activating the passenger alert, a woman nods in support when Tara responds, a man expresses his fear that the incident will not end well, people exchange warning looks after a failed attempt by a younger man to cajole the suffering person…Actually, rather than paralysis Tara begins to see a world of subtle collaboration as people try to take care of one another in a dangerous situation. As Tara leaves the train a fellow passenger smiles and says, “Thank you for helping.” Her conclusion is that rather than the Bystander Effect she has experienced community.