8 Famous Myths That Aren’t Mysteries At All So I Can Finally Get Some Sleep
On March 13, 1964, the body of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was found by his neighbor Sophia Farrar outside their building. She had been followed home after leaving the bar she ran by a man named Winston Moseley, who pinned her down as she walked from her car to the front of her apartment building and stabbed her at two times. Moseley ran off after a neighbor shouted out the window for him to “leave that girl alone!” but returned about 10 minutes later to where Genovese had crawled near the back of the building, where he raped, stabbed and robbed her. Genovese would later die during the ambulance ride to the hospital.
The New York Times published an article shortly after the murder titled “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call The Police” This number was increased to 38 in the article itself. The newspaper described the situation as an extreme case of onlooker indifference, falsely claiming that throughout Genovese’s attack, rape and murder, she was seen by at least 37 people, who did not all did nothing to help. The term “Genovese syndrome” was coined later, with some experts attempting to highlight what was believed to be the ugliest side of human nature – indifference to human suffering, with the common thread of questioning “Why didn’t anyone help?”
Short answer? People certainly did. At least two neighbors pretend to have called police to report the attack on Genovese, although police have previously claimed they have no record of it, and the New York Times itself would later call the original claim of 38 Witnesses as “grossly exaggerated”, although they acknowledged that the story was “widely circulated and took on a life of its own” after the original article was published. It’s also important to note that because the attack took place in multiple locations, various witnesses were only able to see brief moments, and as Genovese struggled to the back of the building where Moseley was raping her and stabbed her again, she was hidden to almost everyone.
It was 2:30 a.m. on the night of the attack, and as Kitty returned from the bar, many people assumed that her attack was simply rowdy behavior left over as bar patrons returned home at the end of the night. Because many witnesses had difficulty seeing in the dark outside, they did not understand the nature of the attack and assumed that Mosely and Genovese knew each other and were simply having a domestic argument. Although “beating his wife” was illegal at the time in 1964, violence against women law would not be adopted until 1994. At the time of Genovese’s murder, it would have been slightly more acceptable to pass off the noise of an attack as a married couple quarrel than it would be today. Also, a 911 emergency call system had not yet been invented, so while witnesses could call the police, there was no official number to call to report an urgent emergency requiring a response. immediate assistance. In fact, Genovese’s murder is commonly considered to be one of the driving forces behind the creation of the emergency line, which began for use in 1968.
Karl Ross, Genovese’s friend and neighbor was the one who called the police and actually witnessed the attack on Genovese when he heard noises coming from outside his apartment. He opened his door to see Moseley stabbing Genovese in the hallway outside his house, and closed his door. Ross then called two separate friends for help on what to do. The second friend was Sophia Farrar, who advised Ross to come before leaving his own apartment to reunite with Genovese. Although Moseley has since fled the scene, Farrar cradled Genovese’s body until police arrived.
One of the supposed reasons Ross may not have called the police immediately was because we thought he was gay, and could potentially have feared them. It was five years ago Stone wall, and throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the LGBTQ+ community found themselves more frequently in opposition to the police. Ross’ fear wasn’t necessarily unfounded, as the prime suspect in the immediate aftermath of Kitty’s murder was actually her partner, Mary Ann Zielonko, who was interrogated for almost six hours. While it’s not necessarily unusual to suspect a murder victim’s partner as the perpetrator, much of Zielonko’s interrogation, as well as subsequent interviews with neighbors, had veered into a inappropriate discussion revolving around the couple’s sex life. This situation was also aggravated by the public perception of homosexuality at the time, which bound lesbianism to a higher rate of mental instability, deviance and criminality.
Along with these crucial factors in Genovese’s murder, her sexuality was largely erased from the public narrative, perhaps due to a realization that if her sexuality became known, she might lose sympathy for her as a than a victim. Instead, the media’s portrayal stripped Kitty of imperative pieces of herself that they found unfavorable while magnifying and even tampering with the more vicious elements of their story in order to pursue what would be called the viewer’s apathy in the face of the pain of a helpless victim. But since her murder, Mary Ann Zielonko has talked about Kitty’s life and their relationshiphopefully bringing new truth to this narrative.