Perverts in public: Sexual harassment on the MBTA in the spotlight, advocates push for speaking up

Transit officials encourage T riders to report sexual misconduct.
Transit officials encourage T riders to report sexual misconduct.

By now, most MBTA passengers are prepared for inevitable delays, fare hikes and cranky crowds, but having to deal with flashers and fondlers really adds insult to injury.

A Boston man was arrested at North Station Monday night after he allegedly masturbated in front of a woman on an inbound Lowell commuter train.

Transit Police said Mehmet Beyaztas, 24, was looking at a woman and masturbating, and “made no attempt to conceal and/or be covert in his actions, and his penis was fully exposed.”

People are hearing more and more about sexual harassment on the T because Transit Police have made a point to publicize what they consider to be an underreported crime.

According to Dr. Carlos Cuevas, a Cambridge-based clinical psychologist, people who masturbate and expose themselves in public places, like the T, are likely turned on by exhibitionism, and will often justify their behavior by telling themselves it is a victimless crime.

“It tends to be more of a compulsive behavior. Because there is no (physical) contact, they feel they are less likely to get caught,” Cuevas said.  “It tends to happen in public because that is what is arousing to the person doing it. Whether it is the excitement of getting caught, or the idea that someone would be interested in seeing it, that public component is part of the fantasy.”

The guilt and shame doesn’t usually kick in until after they get caught.

“They don’t think they’re doing harm… If they feel bad about it they may justify it in their own mind to continue doing it. There is a lot of distorted thinking,” he said.

Almost everyone has stories of being groped or verbally harassed on the T, or seeing people flashing or masturbating, according to Meg Bossong of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. “It’s really upsetting. People are totally grossed out by it,” she said, adding that what makes it terrifying for the victims is also what makes it easy for the perpetrators – anonymity and no escape.

“The cars get crowded, and the trains are often moving. People can’t get away as they could on the street,” Bossong said.

The situation is all too familiar for Jane Carper, co-founder of Hollaback! Boston, an association devoted to ending street harassment.
Carper said she was 14-years-old when she was groped on a crowded Green Line trolley, a line that Transit Police said is a hot spot for unwanted touching.

“I felt someone behind me touching me in my (private area). I looked back, but he wouldn’t look at me. The thing that was hard was there was no way out. He got off at the next stop,” said Carper, who now advocates for speaking up.

“It’s empowering to know what to say, to be prepared, because unfortunately it will probably happen to you.”

Hollaback! Boston offers tips on how to handle a harasser:
*Be assertive: Look them in the eyes; speak in a strong, clear voice
*Don’t apologize, make an excuse for their behavior, or ask them to leave you alone
*Name the behavior and state that it is wrong: “Do not touch my butt, that is sexual harassment”
*Identify the perpetrator: “Man in the yellow shirt, stop touching me.” This is particularly helpful if other people are nearby
*Don’t respond to diversions, questions, threats, or guilt-tripping. Tell them to stop, or leave
*It’s not just a woman’s issue – men who witness sexual harassment on the T are encouraged to speak up and stand up against deviants

Anyone seeking help may contact the BARCC’s 24-hour hotline: 800.841.8371  

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Hillary Clinton headed to Boston for women's leadership…

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit Massachusetts Wednesday amid continuing speculation about making another bid for the presidency in 2016.

Local

Boston Marathon: Marathoners ready to run, honor victims

Scores of runners will cross the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton Monday and embark on a 26.2-mile journey to Boston in honor of the victims.

Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Local

Video: Car crashes into Cambridge store, man arrested…

A Cambridge man was arrested on gun and drug charges after crashing his car into a Massachusetts Avenue storefront early Saturday morning.

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox walk off with…

Red Sox pick up first walk off win of 2014

MLB

Red Sox and Orioles meet Monday morning at…

Red Sox and Orioles meet Monday morning at 11 a.m.

NHL

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings…

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings in Game 2

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.