A Brisbane bullying specialist is not surprised passengers on a bus refrained from standing up to a racist bully.
But QUT psychologist Marilyn Campbell said the example of Windsor woman Kylie Reid could inspire others to act differently in the future.
Ms Reid challenged a man who racially abused a female passenger on her Tuesday afternoon commute home.
She received a tirade of invective from the man, but was more disappointed that only one fellow passenger vocally agreed with her that his behaviour was inappropriate.
“It is unusual for her to have the courage to do that, and it’s very disappointing that other people didn’t stand up as well,” Professor Campbell said.
She said the incident involved classic traits of the “bystander effect”, when people choose to not involve themselves in confrontation.
“They think that the person who is harassing or bullying the victim will turn on them, and they will be hurt,” she said.
“But also, people will get too embarrassed to do what is right.”
She said the more witnesses to an event, the easier it was to do nothing, creating a “diffusion of responsibility”.
“If there are a lot of people watching something bad happening, they don’t have to do anything about it, because it’s not just them [on the scene].”
However, Professor Campbell said just as safety in numbers was the reason people didn’t do anything, a group response was the best way to show a bully their actions were wrong.
“The man who was abusing would then get the message that he was the outcast, that that kind of behaviour was not acceptable to most people on the bus.”
She said people should always consider any risk to their own safety, but would be more confident of standing up in low-risk situations if it was a cultural norm.
“If there is somebody who gets on the bus who is incapacitated, or a woman carrying a baby, it’s a cultural norm for us to stand up and offer our seat,” she said.
“Everybody’s got to think ‘if I were on the bus, what would I do?’”.
Professor Campbell said by simply affirming to themselves that they would act, a person puts themselves in a more likely position to challenge a verbal bully.
“Especially if somebody else did it, you would be able to say ‘I agree’,” she said.
Ms Reid said she was grateful for the support she’d received since talking about the bus incident.
“The response that it’s been getting has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s really helped confirm my belief that I stood up for something ... that was the right thing to do.”
She was grateful for the support she had received since talking about the incident.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk praised Ms Reid for her actions.
“Full marks to her, she’s taken a stand in relation to another passenger who was loud and abusive,” he told Fairfax Radio 4BC.