Katie Couric's Notebook: Bystanders

The details of the gang rape that took place outside a high school homecoming dance at Richmond High School in California are horrifying. A girl was repeatedly attacked for two and a half hours. And as many as 20 people either took part or stood by and watched.

In California, it is illegal to witness a crime against a child and not report it-- but only if the victim is 14 or younger. In this case, she was 15.

So, the witnesses at Richmond High technically didn't break the law. But didn't anyone there just feel the slightest bit of compassion or mercy for the victim?

Some experts chalk it up to "the bystander effect." The people watching the crime may have felt powerless to stop it-- or perhaps they thought someone else would.

But in the age of the cell phone, how hard could it have been to call police?

Just one anonymous call, one person doing the right thing, could have stopped two and a half hours of brutality and spared a young woman a lifetime of emotional and physical scars.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.