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The daytime attack that left Praveet Singh with fractured eye sockets and a broken nose has sparked calls for Kiwis to "do their duty to one another".
Singh, 40, was on her regular pre-dinner walk near her home in Papatoetoe, Auckland, on Thursday when she was set upon in the street by a man who allegedly started punching her, and threw a bottle at her.
Singh sought safety in a driveway but she said the man chased her and the attack continued.
The mother of two said homeowners watched as the beating continued. One had pushed her back towards her attacker. "The neighbourhood gathered and I kept screaming for help and no one did anything. It was a freakshow to them. I've been beaten nearly to death and there were spectators."
Singh, who moved to New Zealand from Fiji in 2003, was recovering at a relative's house.
Narendra Kumar said he initially thought it was a domestic assault and had been reluctant to intervene.
He continued washing his car while the attack continued, also saying he suffered from health problems which meant he couldn't get involved. "I'm not afraid of anybody but I couldn't afford to stop him."
Another neighbour who saw the attack said he was afraid of being charged with assault if he got involved. "Otherwise we would have done something. We feel the New Zealand self-defence rules are really too poor. The attacker's seen us before. If he gets released from jail, he could come here."
Neighbour Singh Sandeep was studying when he heard the shouting for help. "I thought it was a domestic dispute. Praveet was on the ground getting punched. Praveet's eyes were black and there was blood."
Retired police detective inspector Graham Bell, presenter of Police Ten 7 on TV, said the attack was deplorable. "There's a growing tendency for people to just not want to look over the fence or keep looking at the ground and just moving on."
They might be worried about being hurt, about repercussions from offenders, and not getting the back- up of courts if they intervened.
"Public violence has got worse than it once was. For that reason people are more frightened than they used to be. I think the potential for personal injury is much higher than it once was. You know the police can't do everything. The police really are only as good as the rest of the citizenry. We all have a duty to one another. The courts need to do more to back up people who do intervene in good faith."
Local MP Su'a William Sio said it was shocking to see someone being beaten up and even more shocking how few responded.
"We live in a society where it has become difficult to intervene because we're focused on making ends meet. We don't have time to get involved or show interest in the well-being of our neighbours."
Once he had come across a man beating his partner. "I honked my horn, yelled at him to get off, and asked my relatives to call the police ... Ultimately it's the community's role to be interested in what's happening."
Under the Crimes Act, bystanders are allowed to use "reasonable force in the defence of another person", and do not have to wait until they have been attacked before taking action to protect themselves.
A 26-year-old man appeared in the Manukau District Court on Friday charged with common assault and injuring with intent to injure.