In-flight sexual assaults on the rise, FBI says

FBI offers tips to help protect yourself

SAN ANTONIO – It's a federal felony to sexually assault someone on an airplane, and FBI officials say that crime is on the rise.

Special Agent Michelle Lee said the perpetrators are predominantly men and the victims predominantly female, but are all ages -- one of the youngest victims reported was 8 years old, Lee said.

The agency has received 38 reports of sexual assaults aboard airplanes in 2014, and 63 in 2017.

“We often see that the victim is in the middle seat or up against a window.” Lee said.

Lee said in many cases the assaults take place when the cabin has been darkened and the victim is covered with a blanket or jacket.

“Sometimes folks will have a drink to try to relax a little bit as well. We've seen predators also consuming alcohol,” Lee said.

Lee said it's important to remain vigilant at all times.

“Most of our victims have admitted that there were interactions with the predator before things escalated that made them wonder whether or not they feel safe,” Lee said.

Lee urged people to trust their instincts instincts.

“Notify the flight crew immediately. The sooner you say something, the sooner you can take some action,” Lee said.

Lee said flight attendants will ensure authorities are on standby when the plane lands following a reported sexual assault.

Lee added that it's important to make eye contact with any possible predators because it helps send a clear message that you're not going to tolerate any unwanted activity.

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