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The federal government is finally cracking down on midair sexual misconduct following dozens of recent reports alleging in-flight harassment and assault.
Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced Thursday that the Trump administration had established a National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force. The group will specifically focus on reviewing “current practices, protocols and requirements of U.S. airlines in responding to and reporting allegations of sexual misconduct by passengers on board aircraft.” The task force will also advise airlines on best practices around preventing, reporting and collecting data regarding in-flight misconduct. Task force members will be announced during a meeting currently scheduled for Jan. 16.
Mid-air sexual assault against crew and passengers alike has become a rampant issue in skies over the US and abroad. The FBI stated in June that in-flight sexual misconduct has increased “at an alarming rate” of 66% from 2014 to 2017, and the bureau “isn’t sure why.” Special Agent David Rodski, who investigates crimes reported at Baltimore International Airport (BWI), stated that attacks range from inappropriate touching, such as a light graze, to far more invasive actions. “These acts are felonies, which can land an offender in prison for 10 years — or, if aggravated — to life,” according to Assistant Special Agent Brian Nadeau. The bureau said it had opened 63 investigations into sexual assault on aircraft in 2017, compared with 57 in 2016, 40 in 2015 and 38 in 2014. However, all agencies agree that the number of actual incidents is likely far higher, because many encounters go unreported. Australian crew members reported similarly alarming numbers of harassing encounters, proving that the issue is prevalent around the globe.
In 2018 alone, TPG has covered the following news regarding in-air harassment or assault:
- October – 65% of Australian flight crew reported experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault on the job
- October – Southwest flight diverted after Justin Riley Brafford repeatedly harassed a fellow passenger
- September – Southwest traveler Alfredo Vela IV arrested and charged with sexual battery
- September – Delany Luh sued Delta for mismanaging alleged June sexual assault
- August – Spirit traveler Prabhu Ramamoorthy faces up to life in prison sexual assault conviction
- July – Anne Dowling sued United for failing to stop her on-board sexual assault in 2016
- June – FBI said mid-air sexual assault is increasing at an “alarming rate”
- May – Flight attendants urge action against harassment/assault
- May – Lawmakers call on 30 airlines to improve harassment and assault prevention policies
- May – Mid-flight sexual assault victims and perpetrators share their stories
- May – Frontier traveler harasses fellow passengers and urinates on plane seat
- May – Nearly 70% of US flight attendants report experiencing harassment and/or assault on the job
- March – Alaska Airlines pilot Betty Pina sues over alleged 2017 drugging and rape by fellow pilot Paul Engelien
Featured photo by Erik Witsoe / EyeEm / Getty Images.
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