SEATAC, Wash. — Reports of sexual misconduct on planes tripled over a recent three-year period, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
From 2019 to 2021 there was a 25% increase in investigations of sexual misconduct on planes, according to the FBI. In 2018, there were 27 sexual misconduct investigations. In 2022, that number rose to 90 investigations, and so far this year there have been 62 investigations.
The Port of Seattle is hoping to raise awareness about the increase in sexual misconduct on planes, especially as more young people and children are flying. Agencies working on the cases, including the FBI, encourage flyers who experience or witness inappropriate behavior and conduct to report it to the flight crew and authorities upon landing.
“I want to make this abundantly clear. Sexual assault on airplanes is a federal crime. The FBI along with our partners will investigate these crimes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “And I also want to make this also clear. The United States Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Washington can and will prosecute these crimes. We will support our victims and survivors.”
Gorman said close quarters and being isolated on the plane create unique circumstances that people take advantage of.
The majority of misconduct occurs while passengers are sleeping, involves drugs and alcohol, and nearly a quarter of reported victims are minors.
“Victims are not responsible for what happened to them,” said Mary Ellen Stone, CEO of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “We want to make sure that people understand that it is not the victim’s fault.”