The Runaways and the Bystander Effect


Former Runaways bassist Jackie Fuchs came forward last week with an account of being allegedly raped by Kim Fowley after a New Year’s Eve show at the start of the band’s career. The article discussing her experience included accounts from a number of people who claimed to have witnessed the event, corroborating Fuchs’s memories and working through the shame that their inaction had caused them in the intervening years. In response to claims that she may have witnessed the attack and failed to act, Joan Jett issued a statement on Friday that she would never stand idly by in the face of assault; similarly, in the original article, it is stated that Cherie Currie claims she spoke up and left the room quickly.

In an interview with Pitchfork, the journalist who was approached by Fuchs to write the article, Jason Cherkis, describes how Fuchs wanted to focus on bringing attention to the social science behind the bystander effect, namely the phenomenon that occurs when a large group of people witness a crime or negative event: according to the theory, the larger the group, the less likely that any single individual will come forward. The article was born out of Fuchs’ own desire to meet with the people who had been in the room of her remembered attack, to begin a healing process in herself and in them.

Fuchs says, “One of the things I’ve tried to do with every bystander is let them know it’s not their fault. I also have to not blame myself for what happened to them. We are all victims of what Kim did.”

Liz Wood is a freelance editor, fiction writer, and current student in the NYU MFA program. More from this author →