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Your commute from work is going just as it would any other day when you notice a group of teenagers, with bats, bottles, and chains, hovering around a homeless individual. As you walk closer, you notice the gathering of adolescents verbally abusing and striking the vulnerable adult. What would you do?

That question has become the basis of a new ABC show that captures public reactions to ethical dilemmas. In the March 4, 2008 episode, hired actors simulated physical and verbal abuse towards a homeless individual on the streets of New Jersey. Hidden cameras captured the responses of local residents.

In the first experiment, teenagers convincingly staged an attack on a homeless man.

Within moments of beginning the experiment, ABC cameras captured a variety of reactions. Some pedestrians stared in shock. Some walked off to enlist help. Others quickly mobilized and challenged the dehumanization of a member of their society.

“What are you doing? Put that bat down. That’s a human being.” A middle-aged woman shouted at the teens participating in the experiment. Another elderly man reached for the bat and scolded the young boys for their lack of respect.

In another convincing simulation, the homeless man was replaced by a homeless woman. The change in the victim’s gender yielded faster responses from community members. Spectators were quicker to risk their personal safety and resort to physical intervention. In comparison to the male victim, additional community members followed-up with the homeless woman with concerns for her well-being.

After being informed of the experiment, many of those that were pro-active in stopping the abuse communicated a sense of communal justice and basic human rights as their rationale for action. To watch post-experimental interviews and behind the scenes footage, visit http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/WhatWouldYouDo.

Despite the broadcast of this communal justice in action, many homeless individuals continue to fall victim to unprovoked and violent attacks from other members of society, particularly male teenagers. According to Mary Brosnahan, the executive director of New York City’s Coalition for the Homeless, many individuals have gone beyond viewing people without homes as homeless to viewing them as subhuman. The result has been a promotion of sports and activities that incite violence against a demographic that lacks a shelter for protection.

CONTENTS: Main page | pdf of full report | Acknowledgements | Dedication | Executive Summary | Purpose, Methodology, and Previous Reports | Introduction | Historical Summary of Hate Crimes/Violence Data for 1999-2008 | Summary of Hate Crimes/Violence Data in 2008 | Summary of Teen/Young Adult Involvement in Hate Crimes/Violent Acts | Summary of Ages of the Accused versus Ages of the Victims | Summary of Victims Who Were Middle-Aged | Cities where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Map of Cities where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | States where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Map of States where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Cities Where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred – 1999-2008 | Map of Cities Where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred – 1999-2008 | Comparison of Hate Crime Homicides vs. Lethal Attacks on Homeless Individuals | National Media Coverage of Hate Crimes/Violent Acts Against Homeless People | Video Exploitation of Homeless People | Recognizing Anti-Homeless Violence as Hate Crime, by Brian Levin | Legislation | Recommendations for Action | Model City/County/State Legislation/Resolutions | Adopted City/County/State Legislation/Resolutions | Public Education Initiatives | Listing of Incidents by City | Case Descriptions Involving Deaths | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Rape/Sexual Assault | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Setting on Fire | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Beatings | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Shootings | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Police Harassment/Brutality | Appendix A: Sources | Appendix B: NCH Hate Crimes Public Service Ads |

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