Federal authorities are warning that sexual assaults during flights are on the rise. According to the FBI, it’s increasing and at an alarming rate.
"At BWI Airport specifically, it varies. It’s a snow flake thing. Every assault is different — every circumstance is. It’s male on female, female on male. Age range, alcohol seems be be consistent with that," said FBI Special Agent, David Rodski.
According to the FBI, the attacks often occur on long-haul flights when the cabin is dark.
"The victims are usually in the middle or window seats, sleeping and covered with a blanket or jacket. They report waking up to their seatmate’s hands inside their clothing or underwear," said Brian Nadeau with the FBI in Baltimore.
"We find offenders will often test their victims — sometimes brushing up against them to see how they react or if they wake up," explained Nadeau.
The FBI launched an awareness campaign back in April and are now stepping up that effort.
The agency’s advice…
Trust your gut.
Mixing alcohol with sleeping pills increases your risk.
Keep your armrest down between you and your seatmate.
Arrange for an aisle seat for a child traveling alone so the flight attendant can keep an eye on them.
If an incident happens, report it immediately to the flight crew.
"Hit that call button and notify the flight crew immediately. I’m shocked at the number of passengers who do not take that act and they will wait until the plane is on the ground," advised Rodski.
The FBI has a specialist available day and night to assist victims.
Renee Murrell/Victim Specialist FBI:
"Do they need medical attention? We’ll get that for them. Sometimes they’re not even able to drive home, so they need those kinds of real, tangible things like, ‘I’ll get you home, we’ll worry about your car. I’ll help you with that.’ So, talking to their families who may not know or who they may not want to know — because with sexual assault cases, it’s so personal," explained FBI Victim Specialist, Renee Murrell.
The FBI hopes their warning will encourage flyers to be more aware of their surroundings.