Ads on T include men as victims

Posters in campaign against sex assault are gender-neutral

A poster on the T includes men as victims of sexual assault on public transportation.
A poster on the T includes men as victims of sexual assault on public transportation.

In one of the T’s newest posters, a man in a suit and tie stretches his hand out, making the universal sign for stop.

“Hey, you, you are not entitled to my space,” the poster reads. “Sexual harass­ment is a crime. . . . Leave me and the other riders alone.”

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will launch its third public awareness campaign to encourage T riders to report sexual harass­ment, inappropriate touching, and instances of indecent exposure.


For the first time, the ads will feature men.

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“We talk a lot about sexual violence as it impacts women; we don’t always talk about how it impacts men,” said Gina Scaramella of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, one of the T’s partners in the poster campaign. “We wanted to have a campaign that was very inclu­sive and didn’t discriminate by gender.”

Starting Tuesday, 1,000 of the posters will be installed on buses and trains. In one of the five posters, a man in a T-shirt crosses his arms over his chest, next to the admonishment, “No means no.” The three other signs feature women, posed next to phrases such as, “Keep your hands off me,” ­“Respect my space,” and “Keep your privates private.”

The posters also instruct passengers on how to respond to sexual assault crimes on the T: Use a cellphone to capture a photo of the perpetrator. Report the case on the T’s See Something, Say Something smartphone app. Alert a T employee.

In 2009, there were 66 reports of ­inappropriate touching on the T.


That number decreased to 54 in 2010, and 43 in 2011. But in 2012, the number of reports crept back up to 55, according to T officials.

MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said a recent uptick in indecent assault and battery cases on trains and buses prompted the agency to ­refresh the public awareness campaign, which last appeared in 2008 and 2009.

In one of the earlier advertisements, a woman appeared cramped between other passengers on a crowded train. “Rub against me and I’ll expose you,” the sign said.

In its new campaign, Transit Police officials wanted to appeal to a broader swath of the population, MacMillan said, and they turned to Fenway Health, a health care and medical advocacy center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

“With their assistance, we revamped the campaign to make sure we were more inclusive of all our riders,” said ­MacMillan.


Cases of sexual harassment on the T are probably under­reported, MacMillan said, and that is especially true among male victims. “Embarrassment, pure and simple,” MacMillan said, offering a reason. “If a man is touched inappropriately, he might be embarrassed to report it.”

‘Generally there is a widespread societal myth that men don’t experience sexual violence.’

Jessica Newman, counselor and advocate at the Violence Recovery Program at Fenway Health, explained that misperceptions that women are the only victims of inappropriate touching on trains and buses can lead men to be more uncomfortable reporting the crime.

“Generally there is a widespread societal myth that men don’t experience sexual violence,” Newman said.

Additionally, Newman said, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people may be more wary of reporting sexual harassment to Transit Police ­because they worry it will be taken less seriously because of their sexual orientation.

“Historically and currently, there has been a barrier for ­LGBT folks to report crimes that have occurred to them,” Newman said.

Scaramella said there have been palpable changes in attitudes on sexual assault from the T’s 2008 and 2009 public awareness campaigns. She hopes that this most recent gender-­neutral poster series has the same effect.

“The feeling before we started doing these campaigns was, ‘Oh, well, it’s bound to happen, it’s crowded, people can be inappropriate, I’ll have this experience and go to school or work and just forget about it,’ ” said Scaramella.

“No one should be inappropriately touched on their way to work or school,” she continued. “It doesn’t matter if it’s crowded or not crowded.”

Martine Powers can be reached at
Follow her on Twitter ­@martinepowers.