Three people have been arrested in New Jersey in connection with a video showing a young man being stripped and whipped because his father owed $20 -- the latest example of a recording that raises troubling questions about the role of bystanders during a crime.
The video, which went viral in recent weeks, shows a 21-year-old man being forced to strip naked and then whipped with a belt, supposedly because his father owed $20. The cameraman splashes water on the victim, who shivers against a handrail in the 2 1/2-minute clip. The assailant taunts and whips the victim while telling him to scream out that it is “a dog eat dog world.”
Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio told a nationally televised news conference that the three young adults arrested in the case were affiliated with a street gang. They are charged with aggravated assault and robbery, he said.
At the same news conference, a visibly angry Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who has already said he is hoping to run for the U.S. Senate, criticized the attackers.
“This is not who we are,” said Booker, who called the incident “disturbing and disgusting,” and one that pointed to a “subculture of violence we have to address.”
Booker also blamed people in the community for staying silent about the identities of the attackers and for failing to help police.
“These characters were well-known in the community. I understand what their reputations were, but it is still not an excuse to remain silent,” Booker said.
There have long been questions about bystanders who fail to act in times of danger. Social scientists have labeled the phenomenon the Genovese syndrome after a 1964 attack in Queens, N.Y. Kitty Genovese, 28, was returning home from work in the early hours of March 13 when she was attacked by a rapist with a knife. She screamed repeatedly for help. The attacker fled but he returned and killed her. Reports at the time said there were 38 witnesses to the attack, though later research questioned that finding.
Still, the slain woman gave her name to the social phenomenon of a community being too afraid or uncaring to come to the aid of someone being attacked, or in the New Jersey case, to come forward afterward.
Technology has made the issue even more pressing, as demonstrated in Steubenville, Ohio.
Last August, two members of the Steubenville high school's football team were indicted in the rape of a girl at a party where other students and friends were present. Images of the attack went viral and prompted activists to demand that others be charged. The football players are scheduled to stand trial next month.
Arrested in the New Jersey attack were Ahmad Holt, 22, Raheem Clark, 31, and Jamaar Gray, 23, police said. Police said Holt administered the beating, using a belt provided by Clark.
The victim has not been identified. He sustained welts and abrasions that did not require hospital treatment, DeMaio said.