Bringing Awareness To Sexual Assault Aboard Aircraft

National issue on the rise

Matt Moran
June 18, 2018 - 2:16 pm

WBEN Photo/Matt Moran


CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WBEN) - The FBI along with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the NFTA are promoting awareness on sexual assualt on an aircraft. 

The amount of reported cases of the federal crime has almost doubled in the recent years. U.S. Attorney James Kennedy says in many instances the incidents are never reported. 

"People that may have sat silently in the past are now no longer doing so and it's important that they know that we're here to listen and to address these issues," Kennedy said.

The FBI says these incidents typically happen on long overnight flights when the cabin is dark. Close seating can give off the perception of privacy and intimacy and offenders are tempted by the opportunity.

Two cases have been reported on flights heading to the Buffalo Airport in the last year. Both offenders have pleaded guilty, one has already been sentenced to a year in jail. 

Gary Loeffert is the Special Agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI field office.

"Traveling of itself can be stressful for many people, we are not today here to add to that stress or create unncessary fear," Loeffert said. "We simply want to promote awarness so that people can better protect themselves and others that fly."

Suggested precautions when flying include:

Trust your gut. Offenders will often test their victims, sometimes pretending to brush against them to see how they react or if they wake up. If such behavior occurs, reprimand the person immediately, and consider asking to be moved to another seat.

Recognize that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills or other medication on an overnight flight increases your risk.

If your seatmate is a stranger, no matter how polite he or she may seem, keep the armrest between you down.

If you are arranging for a child to fly unaccompanied, try to reserve an aisle seat so flight attendants can keep a closer watch on them. There have been victims as young as 8 years old.

If an incident happens, report it immediately to the flight crew and ask that they record the attacker’s identity and report the incident. The flight crew can also put the offender on notice, which might prevent further problems.



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