Sex Crime Victims Fear “Re-Traumatizing” Airport Pat-Downs


As the outcry grows against the new security screenings at airports, one population may face a special burden at TSA checkpoints: victims of rape or sexual assault who are confronted with a procedure that they believe explicitly strips them of control over their bodies, says the Christian Science Monitor. The experience “can be extremely re-traumatizing to someone who has already experienced an invasion of their privacy and their body,” says Amy Menna, a counselor and professor at the University of South Florida who has a decade's experience researching and treating rape survivors.

An estimated 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, say data compiled by the Department of Justice, FBI, and Centers for Disease Control. About a quarter of a million people each year report a sexual assault. Menna recommends that people know their rights so that they can avoid the sense of powerlessness when going through a security check. During Menna’s own Thanksgiving travel, she, like 98 percent of travelers, opted for the digital scanner, preferring the X-ray search to a physical one. She discovered that her back brace makes her ineligible for the scanning machine, and she got an “enhanced” pat-down. The procedure, new as of Nov. 1, takes about 4 minutes and requires forceful contact with every portion of the body. Many passengers don’t know – and aren't informed – that they have the right to a private screening, or to have another person present at that private screening.

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