Is It A Felony...

Updated: Nov 19, 2019



Being assaulted is a scary thought in and of itself let alone to be assaulted on an aircraft thousands of feet in the air with no immediate means of seeking escape or gaining recourse. Sad to say, the felony act of assaulting an individual on an airplane has been reported to be “on the rise.”[1]Though incidents are dealt with on a case by case basis, it has been reported [herein the matter took place in the Seattle Washington region] that “if the assault didn’t happen in Washington state airspace, it’s a federal crime”[2] and the matter is thereby reported to the FBI. In a quick analysis of the cases where reports were made, as many of these acts go unreported due to the sheer shock experienced by the victims, most of those who experienced this horrific act were females and moreover, juveniles.

The term sexual assault has been defined by the United States Department of Justice as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent.”[3] Though a thought of this nature is not one any of us would like to relish in or even explore its possibility of occurring let alone reoccurring as frequently as it does; let us imagine the following scenario. You are a young woman who has just concluded her business trip but earnestly seeks to return home, as such you book the red-eye under the assumption that well, such a flight would better enable you a rest period as the cabin is dimly lit and most persons at that hour are in no mental state to chit chat. However, your ideal travel time turns into a travel nightmare as in your sleep you are accosted, more over sexually assaulted by a fellow passenger as he [ which appears to be the general case][4] touches you in a most inappropriate manner. One can imagine the shock, anger, and sheer awe that you would be in as you have just been assaulted by a stranger. The mere violation of your personal space is but one aspect but the act, so bold, so thoughtless [as it relates to how you may feel] is enough to drive anyone hopping mad. The unfortunate narrative to a tale of this nature is that acts like these have been said to go unreported as some are too embarrassed, too afraid or still just in shock to relive this ordeal as the act did snatch a piece of you without your consent.


Amidst all of that, it must be mentioned that the month of April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness month and the color teal has been selected to highlight a means of standing together, showing solidarity to combat the evil that comes to the fore in actions previously shared. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center makes information accessible to all. It is important to educate oneself on the options available to access justice if you were ever violated in a similar manner. It is important when traveling to remain vigilant, now I do not wish to instigate a state of panic nor is it my intention to have you walk around in fear but it is truly important to remain alert as in many of these cases conflicting accounts, due to lack of witness’ inability to see clearly due to the state of the dim cabin among other scenarios, prove to be hindrances in convicting the perpetrators of their illegal actions. You may not have been a victim of such an act but there is no need to shun or turn our backs on those who have suffered that fate, as such if you see something say something, bring it to the attention of the cabin crew, press through and make the relevant reports though it often times turns out to be a quite tedious process. Remain diligent and fight the good fight as it could have been your loved one.

What can I do to prevent an assault?

  • Make eye contact; this may seem strange; however, predators often second guess their actions when they realize that you have taken an account of your surroundings and those in it. Though some are bold and can act even after having conversation with you, remain calm and assert your control of your personal space. Set boundaries for interaction.

  • Choose the aisle seat. Yes, you may like a view of your travel mid-flight but sitting in at the aisle seat allows for swift removal from the situation. You are able to more readily seek the attention of others by alighting from your seat to gain the attention of the cabin crew.

  • Educate yourself; the NSVRC website https://www.nsvrc.org/saam is chockful of resources to make you more aware and they also advise on how to take action if needs be. Contact them via https://www.nsvrc.org/contact email, telephone, fax, toll free; they advise on their site safe modes of contact for survivors. The Department of Justice also has a plethora of resources to aid you; https://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault.


The journey of a thousand miles starts with but one step. So do not fear the possibilities, but prepare yourself and equip yourself with the knowledge needed. Remember that you always have a voice and you ought to embrace it and share it when you need to be heard or when you see someone in need of assistance. If we stand together in unity we can make the changes occur, push the legislation, hold the offenders/perpetrators accountable and do what is needed to put them away. Being stuck on an airplane with someone who snatched a part of your very being can be incredibly difficult but embrace your voice and alert the cabin crew so that they can have the relevant authorities present plane side to better assist your plight. Though we all have our own personal struggles, great things happen when we band together to help the common good. Be mindful the next time you are traveling and notice an unaccompanied minor on your flight; though the airline is paid to aid their travel and extra eye or two won’t harm as it could be your child. When next you seek to travel to your bucket list destination, across N abroad Travel Agency https://acrossnabroadtravel.com provides their customers with tips like these and other pertinent information when booking your next dream vacation. So, don’t be dampened by the realities, be open and mindful when booking, as not everyone is willing to equip you with some truly useful tips to ensure that your travel is not only safe and fun but also productive. Toni Reid is exceptional at assisting empty nesters in pursuing their dream trips with her Ready, Set, Go trip itineraries. Head on over to the website https://acrossnabroadtravel.com for more information, a whole new world awaits!


[1] Clarke D. In flight sexual assaults on the rise, FBI says. April 30, 2018. https://www.ksat.com/news/reprorts-of-sexual-assaults-on-aircrafts-on-the-rise Retrieved May 9, 2018.

[2] Gates D. ‘I Just wanted off the plane’: Sexual Assaults often unreported by airlines, so Seattle woman starts campaign. December 7, 2017. Updated January 2, 2018. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/i-just-wanted-off-the-plane-sexual-assaults-often-unreported-by-airlines-so-seattle-woman-starts-campaign/ Retrieved May 9, 2018.

[3] The United States Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault Retrieved May 9, 2018.

[4] Clarke D. In flight sexual assaults on the rise, FBI says. April 30, 2018. https://www.ksat.com/news/reprorts-of-sexual-assaults-on-aircrafts-on-the-rise Retrieved May 9, 2018. Special Agent Michelle Lee said that the perpetrators are predominantly men and the victims predominantly female, but are all ages – one of the youngest victims reported was 8 years old, Lee said.

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