90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, November 14, 2011

PSU Abuse Allegations Raise Question, ‘Why Didn’t Anyone Call The Cops?’

People gather in front of the Old Main building for a candlelight vigil in support of child abuse victims on the Penn State campus on Friday, in State College, PA.

People gather in front of the Old Main building for a candlelight vigil in support of child abuse victims on the Penn State campus on Friday, in State College, PA.

The cases of alleged abuse at Penn State University have many asking why someone didn’t act to put an end to the practice. In particular, if someone witnessed a rape of a young child, why wouldn’t they immediately call police?

Assistant coach Mike McQueary is being vilified for witnessing what he said was the rape of a child, and not stopping it, or calling the police. Penn State points out that McQueary did what he was required to do by state law: he told his boss coach, Joe Paterno. But why didn’t McQueary do more?

Psychologists say the “bystander effect” may be at play.

As Time Magazine reports, it’s a twist on the coping mechanism of denial:

In McQueary’s case… there seems to have been another type of denial at play, which [psychologist Stanley Cohen] labeled “interpretative.” “You don’t deny that something happened, but try to transform the meaning of it,” says [social psychologist Mark Levine] explaining that a witness might minimize the significance of a crime or try to see it as something other than it was.

McQueary may well have been psychologically unable to accept that a man like Sandusky, someone he admired, had actually committed the abhorrent crime he witnessed. Research suggests that when people are faced with situations that threaten their view of the world as relatively fair and decent, rather than revising their own perspective, they often create accounts that deny reality, blame the victim or otherwise rationalize the situation.

Guest:

  • David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

October 17 Comment

Toll Lanes: Coming Soon To Almost Every Major City In Florida

Reporting by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found the toll lanes are developed without much public input, and without reliable knowledge of the cost.

October 17 Comment

USAID: Challenges And Small Victories In Liberia

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 4,500 people in the region with an estimated 8,900 more people currently infected.

October 16 3 Comments

Kathy Gunst Thinks Fall Greens

Now that summer has turned to fall, we start bidding adieu to the summer corn and say hello to fall greens.

October 16 Comment

‘Alternate Routes': Tradition And Change In Utah

Rachel Rohr's dispatches from Utah, where young people are confronting same-sex marriage and other conflicts between change and tradition.