"We degrade Providence too much by attributing our ideas to it out of annoyance at being unable to understand it."

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Debunking the Myth of Kitty Genovese

You know the story, possibly: fifty years ago a young woman was brutally murdered while all her neighbors ignored her cries and pulled down their shades.

At least that's the way I learned it. So I read this article with great interest: Debunking the Myth of the Kitty Genovese Murder

A snippet:

As she walked home — she was only about “a hundred paces away” from the apartment she shared with her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zielonko — she heard a man’s footsteps close behind her. She ran, but the man, Winston Moseley, was too quick. He caught her, slammed her to the ground and stabbed her twice in the back. She screamed twice, once yelling, “Oh, God! I’ve been stabbed!”

Across the street, a man named Robert Mozer heard Genovese from his apartment. Looking out his seventh-floor window, he saw a man and a woman, sensed an ­altercation — he couldn’t see exactly what was happening — and yelled out his window, “Leave that girl alone!”

Moseley later testified that Mozer’s action “frightened” him, sending him back to his car. At this point, Genovese was still alive, her wounds nonfatal.

Fourteen-year-old Michael Hoffman, who lived in the same building as Mozer, also heard the commotion. He looked out his window and told his father, Samuel, what he saw. Samuel called the police, and after three or four minutes on hold, he reached a police dispatcher. He related that a woman “got beat up and was staggering around,” and gave them the location.

Other neighbors heard something as well, but it wasn’t always clear what. Some looked out the window to see Moseley scurrying away, or Genovese, having stood up, now walking slowly down the block, leaning against a building. From their vantage point, it wasn’t obvious that she was wounded. Others who looked didn’t see her at all, as Genovese walked around a corner, trying to make her way home at 82-70 Austin St.

But the police did not respond to Samuel Hoffman’s call, and Moseley, seeing no help was imminent, returned. He hunted down Genovese — who had made it to a vestibule in her building before collapsing — stabbed her several more times, then raped her.

Word of the attack spread though the building. A woman named Sophie Farrar, all of 4-foot-11, rushed to the vestibule, risking her life in the process. For all she knew, the attacker might have still been there. As luck would have it, he was not, and Farrar hugged and cradled the bloodied Genovese, who was struggling for breath.

Despite the attempts of various neighbors to help, Moseley’s final stab wounds proved fatal, and Farrar did her best to comfort Genovese in the nightmarish ­final minutes of her life.

The murder of Kitty Genovese shifted from crime to legend a few weeks later, when The New York Times erroneously reported that 38 of her neighbors had seen the attack and watched it unfold without calling for help.
Read the rest to see how the story we've heard all our lives sloppily grew wings.

[H/T, the excellent Neo-NeoCon]


Trackback URL: http://thinklings.org/bloo.trackback.php/6972.

Comments on "Debunking the Myth of Kitty Genovese":
1. Neo - 02/19/2014 8:21 am CST

So in a nutshell, you're telling me that there was deception reported from the New York Times...?

2. Shrode - 02/19/2014 10:44 am CST

It does sound like (if this is an accurate account) that more could have been done, right?

But the police did not respond to Samuel Hoffman’s call, and Moseley, seeing no help was imminent, returned. He hunted down Genovese

Why didn't the police respond? Why didn't Mozer go down there, and follow-up? OK, so the "indifference" isn't as bad as the paper reported. especially when you arent sure what a sound is, or sure what's going on...

But it sounds like there might be a "grain of truth" that the Times ran with? Yes? No?

I'm glad for this Bill! Yaaay. When we start debunking again, you know the thinklings are back!

3. Bill - 02/19/2014 11:03 am CST

The article discusses the grain of truth. The issue, though, is the myth that got established (and not just by the NYT - other journalistic outfits picked the myth up without any curiosity) is the idea that 38 distinct neighbors saw the stabbing in full view and did nothing. Not true.

There are a few people that are pointed out in the article that truly were cruelly negligent. But not everybody was. In addition, for many neighbors, it wasn't entirely clear what was going on.

But, yeah - it's high time we start debunking again.

I debunk Blo.

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