Witnessing crime activities, disasters, or accidents by onlookers elicits legal and ethical concerns during time of bearing witness. On one hand, the witnesses have right to give all details regarding the occurrence of crime, disaster or accident, but on the other hand, the victims have right to privacy. Thus, bearing witness and respecting victims’ privacy calls for delicate balance to ensure that victims receive appropriate assistance to prevent them from undergoing unnecessary psychological torture. However, maintenance of delicate balance is very hard for it has resulted into opposing schools of thoughts. There are proponents who argue that witness rights should take precedence over victim rights because evidences are critical in investigation and should not be part of victim’s privacy. On the other hand, opponents argue that victim’s privacy is paramount to avoid further victimization of survivors. Since a victim requires urgent assistance, the bystanders should bear witness in spite of victim’s privacy rights.
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Victims need urgent assistance from the bystanders and thus the right to privacy comes second. If the rights to privacy take precedence, then the victims will not receive timely rescue because bystanders will shy away not only from rescuing, but also from bearing witness lest they violate victims’ rights. Hence, privacy of the victims does more harm to their situation for they will suffer in silence while the public assumes all is well. Given that victims are in dire need of help, they are unconscious or cannot make any rational decisions regarding their rescue process or privacy rights. It is therefore, ethical responsibility of the bystanders to report exactly what transpired in crime, accident, or disaster for the public to understand. Thus, bystanders should be free to bear witness of the victimizing circumstances to enable the victims receive appropriate assistance and for the public to prevent future occurrence of the same.
Experiences of victims such as crime, disasters, and accidents are matters of public interests. By bearing witness, the bystanders are giving out relevant information to the public that is helpful in assisting other victims or preventing occurrence of victimizing circumstances. For instance, a bystander can bear witness of how fatal road accident occurred with the objective of warning other drivers from driving carelessly or may also narrate how criminals robbed certain home to alert people. In such issues, the public has the right to know what and how their lives predispose to certain dangers in the society because a victim is worth many other victims if impending crises are not made public. If matters of public interests are subjects to victim’s rights, how will the public take caution concerning the predisposing circumstances they do not know, except the victims alone? Therefore, bystander’s information is very important and should not be subject to privacy rights of the victims.
From utilitarian point of view, bearing of witness by the bystanders is morally correct since it results into greatest benefit to the greatest number of people in the society as compared to benefits from victim’s privacy. Respecting victim’s privacy benefits only the victims, while bearing witness benefits the whole society, hence ethically right. Although bearing witness may at times be victimizing and psychologically torturing to the victims, bystanders are not doing it with intention of victimizing or for any selfish gain. The basic intention of bearing witness is to provide relevant information for investigation, assisting the victims, and educating the public on impending dangers that are in their lives. Hence, bystanders have moral responsibility of not only rescuing the victims, but also providing the public with the essential information unreservedly