Kitty Genovese (July 7, 1935 - March 13, 1964) was a New York City resident attacked and stabbed to death outside her apartment building on the night of March 13, 1964. Her attacker, Winston Moseley, sexually assaulted her as she was dying.
The incident is recounted by Walter Kovacs (Rorschach) to Doctor Malcolm Long, with deep contempt for the residents who lived near the murder site. Kovacs also recounts that some of the neighbors even watched the attack as it happened.
Kovacs recognized Genovese's name from news reports as the woman who turned down the dress made from the same material from which he had fashioned his mask. She had been a customer of the dressmaker Kovacs worked for where the material was first introduced. According to his interview with his psychiatrist, Malcolm Long, Kovacs used the dress Genovese had turned down to fashion a "face that he could look at in the mirror." Long theorized, it concluded that Genovese's murder was not the primary factor in Kovacs' final transformation into a hardened vigilante.
In the context of real life, it is important to note that her neighbors didn't really watch callously, but that does reflect the sensationalism of the story at the time it was reported.