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Shifting Sands

Kitty  Genovese: A true account of a public murder and its private consequences

by Catherine Pelonero

I guess the big question after reading this book (and a lot of the reviews) is how many people needed to witness or hear Kitty Genovese being stabbed and then raped (over a 38 minute period) without contacting police for us to feel better about what happened. 38? 20? 15? How about 5?

Despite the claims of “revisionists” who are attempting to debunk the “bystander effect” theory resulting from this case, the fact remains Moseley had time to take a break during his attack so he could move his car (which was under a street light) and change his headgear to better hide his face from the people he knew were watching. This done, he was free to track a bleeding and gravely injured Kitty to where she was hiding in an apartment building lobby, where he raped her after stabbing her in the throat.

The whole episode is a disgrace and the neighbourhood deserves the condemnation they received. The killer himself, Winston Moseley, commented during his trial that he knew the man who told him to, “Leave that woman alone” would go back to bed and do nothing. That’s why he came back to finish the poor girl off. He knew no one would come to her aid or call the police. He had all the time in the world.

I’ve read the “revisionist” accounts of the Genovese murder. This book does not fall into the “revisionist” camp. I don’t understand why so many reviewers think it does. Despite the hemming and hawing of historical apologists, the fact remains Kitty may have survived if Moseley hadn’t been able to have a second crack at her. The excuse given by revisionists – that many witnesses thought they were seeing a “domestic dispute” is risible, given many witnesses later admitted seeing Moseley holding a knife.

This book was a well researched account of the crime. It left me feeling enraged and full of contempt for a society that accepts violence against women – because ultimately the devaluing of female lives is what created the “bystander effect”.

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