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
International

Rockets fired from south Lebanon toward Israel: news…

At least two rockets were fired on Saturday from southern Lebanon toward Israel, Lebanon's national news agency said, without saying who had launched them.

National

Obama to examine police use of military hardware…

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the distribution of military hardware to state and local police.

International

Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire as fighting rages

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt fire and resume peace talks, but violence continued unabated.

National

SpaceX rocket terminated in Texas test flight

A Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket suffered an anomaly shortly after launch on a test flight, triggering its automatic termination system.

Music

Arcade Fire concert review, Massachusetts, Aug. 19

Arcade Fire take the opposite approach of "Shut up and play the hits," and it works in their favor on the "Reflektor" tour.

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…