Only the most insensibly violent acts can grab the attention of Americans who enjoy dramatized violence in their favorite television shows and movies. When we hear about these heinous crimes, something stirs inside all but the most desensitized. Sadly, two such incidents have grabbed headlines in recent days.

Observers are struggling to comprehend what happened outside a high-school homecoming dance in Richmond, California, the evening of October 24. Authorities have detained five people after a 15-year-old girl was reportedly beaten and gang raped for more than two hours. As if the assault wasn't bad enough, authorities believe than more than 20 people looked on or participated. Police report that some of the onlookers laughed while others snapped pictures. No one reported the crime to authorities. No one taking photos on a cell phone used the device to call for help.

"This just gets worse and worse the more you dig into it," Richmond Police Department Lt. Mark Gagan told CNN. "It was like a horror movie. I can't believe not one person felt compelled to help her."

Some experts suspect that witnesses feared retaliation if they "snitched," a grievous sin in violent communities. But that theory does not explain why some of the onlookers eventually joined in the rape. Others believe that the so-called bystander effect kicked in to convince at least some of the witnesses that someone else had reported the crime. Or perhaps they simply fell in line with the rest of the tight-lipped crowd.

"If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then doing nothing becomes the norm," Drew Carberry, a director at the National Council on Crime Prevention, said to CNN.

Similarly, no one did anything to stop the deadly ...

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