Kitty Genovese Case Study

Purdue University Global


The Kitty Genovese case is one that is shocking, sad, and if the accounts of the witnesses are true, horrifying. I have found differing accounts about this case when it comes to the witnesses, so I am of two opinions on this part of the case. The facts of the case are that a 28-year-old woman who led an alternative lifestyle was found stabbed to death in 1964, and while the suspect was apprehended and subsequently sentenced, great emphasis was placed on the victim’s lifestyle at the time .

Why do you think there were so many witnesses but no one tried to intervene?

If accounts are to be believed and there were so many witnesses, I believe that it could be a mix of a few different factors. Genovese had not made a concentrated effort to hide her alternative lifestyle, and it was an open secret in that neighborhood, so that could have been one factor, as being a lesbian in that era was not an accepted lifestyle. Another factor could be that perhaps those witnesses were afraid of possibly being attacked themselves, or even retaliated against later, should they intervene on the victim’s behalf. Yet another factor that I can think of is that perhaps the witnesses were afraid of what the other witnesses would think of them should they intervene.

Do you think Kitty’s chances of being saved would be better if the crime happened today? (Consider the fact that there was no universal 911 emergency system in place in 1964.)

In my opinion, I believe that she would have been saved had this crime taken place in this era. Alternative lifestyles are more accepted, so there would have been less emphasis placed on that over the crime which took place. There is also the face that 911 does exist, as well as GPS locators and cell phones, which allows for easy accessibility to emergency services. The reaction time of law enforcement and paramedics are a lot faster today than what they would have been 50 years ago, as well.

What are forensic psychologists referring to when they say the “Kitty Genovese Syndrome”?

The Kitty Genovese Syndrome is believed by psychologists to happen when a crowd of people witness an event and become less likely to intervene than they would be if they were alone or in a smaller group setting. Contemporary studies, however, are questioning the validity of the Kitty Genovese Syndrome as they believe that researchers had a prior bias due to the Kitty Genovese case, as well as the possibility of the researchers ignoring groups that had helped during an emergency .