It was a Thursday night like any other. I was walking back home with a friend of mine at 3 a.m. when I saw someone chasing a guy. He tackled him and threw punches at him. My friend dismissed it as “a bunch of drunk kids” and wanted to just get home.

The victim’s friend was just standing there, not doing anything to help. The assaulter’s friends were just standing there too, making no attempt to stop the drunken assault. All the while the assaulter was pounding away and the victim was just lying there too drunk and dazed to do anything.

And there I was – the only guy who seemed to be concerned. But all I could muster was a meager “Stop fighting on the road.”

It was only about 10 seconds of watching the guy get his face pounded, I realized someone had to do something. No one budged. I finally told everyone to back away from the victim, something I probably should have done much earlier. It was only as I got closer that I realized that this wasn’t just some silly fight; the guy’s nose was broken, his was lip busted and his jacket was soaked with blood. If I’d just walked in immediately instead of standing there gawking, he wouldn’t have been injured half as badly.

So there we were: me, my friend, the victim’s “friend” and the victim, who couldn’t even stand on his own. We had to get him to the hospital but had no means of doing so. I told my friend to wave down any cab that passed by, but he seemed very reluctant to even try. Some guys walked by us, inquired about what happened and then just walked away.

A girl driving a car pulled up at the intersection and just stared at us for a while. When I noticed her, I told her the guy was injured badly and that we needed to get him to the hospital. She seemed very hesitant to drive him the two blocks to the hospital. She promised to call a cab and come back in a few minutes – I never saw her again.

Finally, we saw a beacon of hope: a Department of Public Safety car. We waved frantically and were relieved when it pulled over. We explained the situation, and when the officer saw the victim’s bloody face, the first thing he did was to order him to back away from the car and sit on the pavement. He then decided that instead of driving the victim down to the hospital, he would wait for an ambulance. The poor guy probably woke up the next day with not just a broken nose but also a $500 bill for the two-minute ambulance ride up the block. For an organization whose name implies its primary role is to safeguard the public, DPS certainly had a lackadaisical response to an injured victim.

Satisfied there was nothing else we could do, my friend and I started walking home. I started talking about how the perpetrator had just severely injured someone over a simple verbal altercation. My friend responded by blaming the victim’s drunkeness and assumed the assaulter had a good reason for beating him up.

It’s amazing how a simple 10-minute incident can reflect on society as a whole. You have the perpetrator who hurts the victim. You have the perpetrator’s friends who make no attempt to stop him. Then you have the victim, who is too weak to help himself, and the victim’s friend, who simply stands by. You have the observer who doesn’t want to get involved, criticizes any attempted aid and is quick to blame the victim and defend the perpetrator.

You have the average Joes who are full of concern and curiosity but of little actual help. You have those with the power to make a difference, but more worried about their own interests. You have the jaded establishment that is slow to act and almost further compounds the victim’s problems. And finally, you have the good Samaritan who does too little, too late.

Things aren’t looking good for us, guys.

Rajiv Prabhakar can be reached at rajivp@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.