Helping strangers means breaking free of the bystander effect

A video that shows a man punching an Asian passenger on a Manhattan-bound J train stunning not just because the beating is so violent but also because so many people riding the subway car did nothing to stop it. The other people even appeared indifferent until the attacker choked the victim so hard that the man lost consciousness.

Mental health experts call this the "bystander effect." 

"When there's a large group of people, everyone assumes that someone else is going to step up and step in and intervene," Dr. Claire Nicogossian, a licensed clinical psychologist and an author, told FOX 5 NY. "Really, our collective decision-making goes down the more people that are in a group."

One of the most famous examples of the so-called bystander effect is the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese. Her neighbors in Kew Gardens, Queens, heard her screaming but did not help. Darrin Porcher, a former NYPD lieutenant, believes New Yorkers can do better.

Asian woman kicked in stomach, repeatedly stomped on as building workers watched

"You may not want to walk over to that person yourself. If everyone amasses together, then you have a better chance of eradicating or interdicting the threat as opposed to you going over there on your own," Porcher said. "But it's important you do something."

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Since the uptick in crime against Asians, the nonprofit social justice group Hollaback is offering bystander intervention training to Asian communities in New York City.

Video shows man brutally beating, choking Asian man on subway

"We want you to one assess your safety because your safety is always priority," deputy director Jorge Arteaga said. 

Hollaback doesn't suggest you engage a violent person but rather try to diffuse a violent situation by creating a safe distraction. 

Hollaback has gotten a huge response from the Asian community. Thousands are taking the group's online training courses.