November 4, 2009

MBTA honored for fighting sexual harrassment

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) received an award for its groundbreaking efforts to stop sexual harassment on buses and trains. In addition,  the agency unveiled a new public awareness campaign designed to encourage even more reporting of such incidents and deter would-be predators.

At the ceremony Wednesday, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) honored the MBTA as its 2009 “Champion for Change.” The award is given annually to recognize individuals and organizations that have made exceptional contributions to the fight against sexual violence. Said BARCC:  “The MBTA has earned the 2009 award for their first-in-the-nation outreach and public safety plan regarding inappropriate sexual behavior on public transportation, which has achieved truly outstanding results.”

In the 18 months since the first campaign was launched in April 2008, transit police made 28 arrests for indecent assault and battery --- a 40 percent increase over arrests made for the same offense in the 18 months before April 2008. Efforts to encourage more victims to report such incidents have also been successful. The 99 reports to transit police since April 2008 represent a 32 percent increase over the number of reports made in the 18 months leading up to the launch of the campaign.

“This partnership is based on mutual respect and a desire to reach our common goal to reduce sexual harassment on public transportation. Our organizations have different roles and yet we have been able to come together to really make a difference for passengers,” said BARCC Executive Director Gina Scaramella of working with the MBTA.

“As we continue our commitment to the Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign, we will work closely with BARCC to educate and empower our passengers to assist us in ensuring a safe transit environment,” said Chief MacMillan.  

In the coming weeks, hundreds of new signs will be posted inside MBTA buses and subway cars in a concerted effort to re-energize the public awareness program, which drew national attention when it was first launched in April of 2008.  The attention-getting new messages show subway passengers through the lens of a surveillance camera and warnings of plain clothes police officers traveling aboard trains and buses.

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