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Public Statements

The Introduction of the Protecting Airline Passengers From Sexual Assaults Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, today, I rise to introduce the Protecting Airline Passengers from Sexual Assaults Act, a bill to require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to collect and maintain data on the number of sexual assaults that occur on commercial airplanes. At the moment, there are no real-time statistics or documentation. As a result, we cannot gain either the necessary information to prosecute these crimes or the insights to help eliminate them and improve complicated onboard sexual assault investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Passengers expect that after going through extensive security at airports that they will be safe aboard their flights, but a recent surge in reports of sexual assaults occurring on planes suggests otherwise. Those who staff flights and who may witness these crimes should have guidance as to how to proceed. Law enforcement and the flying public deserve to have access to data on sexual assaults that occur on planes so that we can work towards preventing these devastating crimes.

In recent years, there has been an increase in reports of sexual assaults on flights in the United States. Oftentimes, the survivors of these crimes were asleep during part of the assault, but were so afraid and shocked that they did not call for help. In these cases, the dynamics of surviving a sexual assault are amplified. In order for the FAA and law enforcement to better gauge the extent of these horrendous crimes that have taken place on aircraft and to work towards prevention, data on the number of sexual assaults needs to be collected and shared with the public.

My bill would require the FAA to establish a program to collect and maintain data on the number of sexual assaults that occur on commercial flights, including international flights and domestic flights that land or take off in the United States. Even more importantly, my bill would require the FAA to make this data available to the public on its website.

Sexual assaults on airplanes are criminal acts that elude police and prosecutors more than many other crimes due to a number of factors, including fear on the part of the survivor, lack of witnesses, and a lack of education on how to respond to such acts. We need to know where the source of the surge is. This data is also very important because the public deserves to know that such incidents have happened.

I urge support of this bill.

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