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Posted October 24, 2007 in Bystanders
Ric Kahn, "Latin School Girl Assaulted on the T," Boston Globe (October 17, 1998)

A 13-year-old Boston Latin School student was terrorized on the T this week when four male classmates allegedly sexually assaulted her on a Green Line transit car on her way home from school, police said.

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, police said, the four boys allegedly cornered the girl in the back of a subway headed downtown from the Fenway and tied the cords of her backpack to a pole.

Then, police said, they attacked: taunting and touching her, fondling her breasts and buttocks. They allegedly tried to tear her top off.

Frantically, the girl tried to flee, said a source familiar with the allegations, kicking her assailants and saying, ''No, get away from me, stop.''

But none of the passengers came to her aid, according to the source. The boys also allegedly rifled her backpack, taking candy and her asthma inhaler.

MBTA police arrested two of the boys suspected at their homes on Wednesday and two at Boston Latin on Thursday, authorities said.

The four, three of them 13 years old and one 14-year-old, were arraigned Thursday in Boston Juvenile Court. The boys pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and battery and unarmed robbery. None have prior records. All were released to the care of their parents.

''We've gone to great lengths to put more officers on the subways, but it's not possible to be everywhere at all times,'' said Brian Pedro, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. ''If this did happen on a crowded train, and no passengers came forward to help or report it, then shame on them.''

Pedro said T officials learned of the alleged assault after the girl was examined for injuries and trauma at a local hospital.

Meanwhile, at Boston Latin, the city's most prestigious public school, officials on Monday will conduct disciplinary hearings on the four suspects. They could face either suspension or expulsion.

''Allegations like this are upsetting to us no matter which school they involve,'' said Tracey Lynch, spokeswoman for the school department.

The girl's parents yesterday declined comment.

Sources close to the investigation said the alleged ringleader of the attack is a seventh-grader who had reportedly harrassed the girl previously and is also under investigation for attacking another female. The Department of Social Services is investigating allegations of substance abuse in his home, that were filed against his family following his arrest, according to a source.

On Tuesday afternoon, the 13-year-old student was heading home on the Green Line with a friend. When her classmate got off, the boys moved in, sources said.

At the ringleader's urging, one boy allegedly stuck a dollar bill down her blouse and then pulled it out. With the subway at the Park Street station, a small classmate told the boys to ''stop,'' but he was pushed out of the way, police said.

The girl was able to maneuver her backpack off. And she hurried off the car from another stop, but the boys allegedly followed her home. They left the scene when they spotted building security.

This story ran on page B01 of the Boston Globe on 10/17/98.


T attack latest case to test public role

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff, 10/20/98

The stories have come with alarming regularity: A Boston Latin School student is allegedly sexually assaulted by four classmates on the MBTA, and 10 students watch, some giggling. A Mattapan man beats up his ex-girlfriend in a crowded elevator and no one comes to her aid. Neighbors fail to approach an 8-year-old Quincy boy wandering the street in his underwear after he finds his mother murdered.

Are these examples of an increasingly apathetic and indifferent public? Or are they just typical, if disturbing, blips in our society's moral makeup?

''People do help sometimes, but it depends these days. You have to be careful,'' said Victor Carrion, 20, of Chelsea, who was working at that city's YMCA yesterday.

''People get scared. If it is my friend, I'd help,'' he said, ''but if it is someone I don't know, it's not my personal business. It's not that I might get hurt helping, I will.''

It's been more than three decades since the cries of a dying Kitty Genovese went unanswered by 38 of her Queens, N.Y., neighbors, opening up a field of study on moral behavior. In May 1997, the inaction of David Cash, who did nothing as his best friend molested and strangled a 7-year-old girl in the restroom of a Las Vegas casino, reopened the debate.

And in the last four days in Boston, the debate has raged on, after a 13-year-old Boston Latin School girl was allegedly sexually assaulted on a Green Line trolley. The boys allegedly tied her to a pole, and fondled her breasts and buttocks.

The four juveniles were arraigned on indecent assault and battery charges Friday and will not be allowed back into school until suspension proceedings are completed, according to school officials and police. They will also be referred to a school-run counseling center before a decision is made on whether they can return.

A Boston police detective investigating the case, who asked not to be named, said adults on the crowded car did not have ''a vantage point to know'' what was going on. However, the detective said there were about 10 ''older children there, older students, whether they were Latin students or not I don't know, [and some] giggled and laughed about it.'' One Latin student did try to intervene, the detective said, but he was ''too little.''

Throughout the weekend, e-mail from Latin school parents dominated a specialized chat room, where the discussion centered on why no one helped the girl. Some students and parents wrote that it may have been unclear what was going on, according to some parents who saw the e-mail messages.

''I don't know why they didn't help,'' said a Boston Latin ninth-grader who asked not to be identified. ''Maybe no one thought it was serious.''

One study from the Genovese case backs that contention. The more people who witnessed a situation, the study said, the less likely it was that anyone would intervene. One theory is that if so many people are accepting a situation, it essentially becomes the norm of the moment.

There is no law in Massachusetts that criminally charges someone for not helping another person, said Arthur Leavens, a law professor at Western New England College School of Law in Springfield. In fact, few states have laws requiring the public to intervene when they see someone in harm's way. While Good Samaritan laws do exist in varying degrees in a handful of states, few have succeeded in holding the public accountable for what ultimately is behavior of questionable morals.

Sociologists interviewed yesterday said moral behavior is not on the downswing. The very fact that the recent cases shock the public's sensibilities is proof that such cases are rare.

''This is not new,'' said Boston College sociologist Paul Schervish. ''I think glitches ... are the very nature of our society and are longstanding. Of course they should be regarded as a problem, but they are not dramatically increasing.''

MBTA Deputy Chief William Fleming said the instances of people helping others far outweigh the few cases in which they don't. In June, he said, passengers came to a T worker's rescue when a man attacked her. The assistance led to the man's arrest.

''The good stories, the good people never get reported,'' said Fleming. ''People do care.''

Still, the cases of public indifference remain shocking. On Oct. 9, Calvin Bugg Jr., 46, was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on charges he beat and verbally abused his ex-girlfriend in an elevator in a Boston building in July. According to prosecutors, no passengers intervened.

In Quincy last week, after finding his mother dead in her bedroom, an 8-year-old boy wandered in his underwear to a nearby halfway house to get help. While residents called police, no one went home with the boy to see what was wrong with his mother, Elizabeth Holland, even after the boy said, ''Something is wrong with my mommy.''

Daniel Monti, professor of sociology at Boston University, said the three local cases are distressing yet reassuring.

''We are still capable of moral outrage,'' he said. ''The big lesson is this: From these episodes we can take a positive charge to be more attentive and vigilant to make sure bad things don't happen to good people.''

Ric Kahn and Paul Langner of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

Category: Bystanders