MBTA joins global fight against transit sexual harassment

MBTA Transit Police Superintendent-in-Chief Joseph O'Connor speaking on the MBTA's partnership with the Global Guardian effort. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
MBTA Transit Police Superintendent-in-Chief Joseph O’Connor speaking on the MBTA’s partnership with the Global Guardian effort.

The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Fenway Health, Hollaback! Boston and the MBTA are joining a transatlantic effort to call attention and respond to sexual harassment and assault on public transit.

Global Guardian expands on the T’s 2008 crackdown on sexual assault and harassment. In this first year of what is expected to be a growing annual effort, police in London, Vancouver and Washington, D.C. will also participate in the operation.

“We want people to know that we care and take very seriously these crimes and that all people should feel safe reporting them to transit police. We will follow up and do investigations,” said Transit Police Superintendent-in-Chief Joseph O’Connor.

In 2013, there were 46 reported assaults on the MBTA, according to O’Connor. So far this year, there have been 14 reports, but BARCC Executive Director Gina Scaramella said she anticipates more people will come forward as public awareness is stirred.

Plain clothed and uniformed T Police will be providing flyers to riders this week with information to download onto mobile devices.

Cara Presley-Kimball of the Violence Recovery program at Fenway Health, said that local partners are supportive of addressing harassment and violence that is targeted specifically at LGBT people, and  Scaramella pointed to a notorious MBTA upskirting incident as a demonstration of how everyone has a role to play.

“In that case, it was the riders who let the police know that they observed an offender taking upskirt photos of women on public transportation,” Scaramella said.

Kate Ziegler of Hollaback! Boston also pointed to the need for bystander involvement in preventing incidents of sexual harassment.

“We recognize the need for victims and bystanders alike to be able to speak about their experiences to both law enforcement and with other members of the community, however they are most comfortable,” said said Ziegler.

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


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