NORMAN — The psychological explanation for what happened to Catherine Ferreira is neat and tidy and sounds like reason.
“The bystander effect,” explains Psychology Today on its website, “occurs when the presence of others hinders an individual from intervening in an emergency situation.” While people are more apt to step in if they are the only ones available to do so, the magazine says that when gathered in groups, they tend to hold back and look to one another for cues on what to do.
It is a definition that manages to explain everything without explaining anything, to clear things up without remotely satisfying. Certainly, it doesn’t make it any easier to watch the online video as Ferreira, 27, is attacked by another woman, a McDonald’s co-worker, on a walkway behind the restaurant, as she is savagely beaten, kicked and cursed while a crowd of about a dozen people gathers, watches, and does absolutely nothing.
Well, no, that’s not entirely fair. They do take out their cellphones and record the action. You can hear one guy give an appreciative “ooh” when an especially vicious blow is struck.
Only one bystander has the manhood to do the right thing, and that is Ferreira’s son, who is two. He yells and kicks at the woman in a futile attempt to get her off his mom.In response, the woman tells Ferreira she better get her son back before “I kick him in the (expletive) face, too.”
Walking off, she spits on Ferreira, who is lying on the ground. No one on the scene called police, who didn’t learn of the crime until she got to her apartment complex and a security guard made the call.
The sterling credit to humanity who did all this has been identified by police in Salem, N.J., as 25-year-old Latia Harris. After almost a week on the run, she turned herself in last Monday and at this writing is behind bars for want of $20,000 bail. Authorities say she was angry Ferreira had gossiped about her.