Reports of In-Flight Sex Crimes on the Rise

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Two men have been charged in two separate cases with sexually assaulting women while aboard airline flights.

“If there is one thing we’ve learned in this year of #MeToo, it is that, if we all work together and we call a crime a crime, we can make a difference,” said US Attorney Annette Hayes. “We can make a difference even on airplanes.”

These cases come on the heels of former Facebook executive Randi Zuckerberg’s public complaint about sexual harassment during a flight with Alaska Airlines, and federal law enforcement have responded with a concentrated effort against these kinds of violations.

Annette Hayes

US Attorney Annette Hayes

Federal prosecutors accused Babak Rezapour, 41, of aggressively groping a sleeping passenger, including rubbing her thigh while she slept, and repeatedly groping her as she awoke. The victim was eventually found crying near the plane’s restrooms.

Nicholas Matthew Stevens, 37, has been accused of the same charges, after groping a woman who said she felt “trapped” by her position at the window seat.

According to the FBI, sexual predators on airplane flights most commonly assault their victims during evening flights, when the lights have dimmed, and passengers are more likely to be drowsy or sleeping.

Sometimes, however, they rely on a combination of status and the apathy of flight attendants, as Randi Zuckerberg learned, after being repeatedly harassed on a flight by an Alaska Airlines “regular”:

Randi Zuckerberg

These incidents are part of an ever-growing number of in-flight harassments, a development that FBI Special Agent Jay Tabb says is due to increased reporting on the part of passengers. Though 63 reported incidents in 2017 might seem relatively small, this is almost double the number reported in 2014, which stood at 38.

Tabb encourages those who have experienced or witnessed such events to report them to in-flight attendants immediately, and to call 911 once the plane has landed. He also emphasized that these events were being taken seriously.

“Please know that it matters,” Tabb said, “and that the FBI will do everything it can to deliver justice.”


Online editor for Hers magazine.

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