Victims Endure Sexual Assault at 32,000 Feet

In-flight crimes are vastly under-reported, authorities say.

April 15, 2015, 10:15 AM

— -- In-flight sexual assaults are vastly under-reported, with victims often too embarrassed or afraid to speak up, authorities say.

Dana LaRue says she was a victim of sexual assault at 32,000 feet, alleging that she awoke on her flight to find a fellow passenger inappropriately touching her leg, and later her chest.

“I knew in my head I should scream, I should yell, I should do something, but I couldn’t get my body to react,” LaRue said.

Such situations aren’t unheard of. Last year, a computer engineer, Thami Drissi, was deported after pleading guilty to groping a woman during a flight from Morocco to New York. Additionally, Rabbi Gavriel Bidany was sentenced in 2011 in Brooklyn to 60 days in federal prison for similar charges.

A sexual or physical assault on a flight happens each week in the New York area alone, according to the FBI. Sexual assaults are more likely to occur on overnight flights, authorities said.

“We’ve seen it often where the victim has taken some kind of anxiety medication, and they’re not responsive,” FBI agent Mark Palagiano said.

LaRue did not report her case to the flight crew during her flight, a regret that has led her to become an advocate for victimized passengers.

“I advise anyone who finds themselves in that situation to make a huge scene. Don’t be afraid,” she said.

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