I have an incident to share that occurred late Friday afternoon, November 12, 2010, around 5:15 in the Dayton International Airport.
I realize the publishing this publicly on the internet puts me into a delicate situation, given that I am a high profile blogger and author. This is a difficult incident to share, but it needs to be said…Because I will not be a silent victim. I will share the facts of the incident in as a matter of fact manner as I can.
I checked into my flight and had a boarding pass printed that included “plus infant.” My baby and I were flying from Dayton, OH, to San Antonio, TX, so I could run in the San Antonio Half Marathon. I was taking my baby along because he is still breastfeeding for part of the day.
I entered the security line, removed the special formula that I had with me for the baby, as well as my quart size baggie with my other liquids. I went through the x-ray machine and metal detector, carrying the baby, with no incident.
Because I was traveling with baby formula, I knew to expect that they would test it with the paper circles for explosives. The TSA agent took all of my belongings over to the table in the center of the explosive screening tables. She asked me, “Are you aware of the NEW policies for carrying liquids through security that were instated 4 years ago?” (capitalized to show the emphasis that she placed on that word.)
I replied, “Yes, I fly with him every several weeks.”
She scanned the formula, then turned to me and said, “Remove your shoes and stand on that black mat for a patdown.”
I said, “OK, what do I do with the baby?”
“You cannot be holding him.” (I am traveling alone.)
So I placed him into his stroller. She instructed me, “Spread your feet apart and hold your arms out to the side.” I obliged.
She patted my left arm, my right arm, my upper back and my lower back. She then said, “I need to reach in and feel along the inside of your waistband.”
She felt along my waistline, moved behind me, then proceeded to feel both of my buttocks. She reached from behind in the middle of my buttocks towards my vagina area.
She did not tell me that she was going to touch my buttocks, or reach forward to my vagina area.
She then moved in front of my and touched the top and underneath portions of both of my breasts.
She did not tell me that she was going to touch my breasts.
She then felt around my waist. She then moved to the bottoms of my legs.
She then felt my inner thighs and my vagina area, touching both of my labia.
She did not tell me that she was going to touch my vagina area or my labia.
She then told me that I could put my shoes on and I asked if I could pick up the baby, she replied Yes.
She then moved back to my belongings to finish scanning them with the paper discs for explosives.
When she finished she said I was free to go.
I stood there holding my baby in shock. I did not move for almost a minute.
I stood there, an American citizen, a mom traveling with a baby with special needs formula, sexually assaulted by a government official. I began shaking and felt completely violated, abused and assaulted by the TSA agent. I shook for several hours, and woke up the next day shaking.
Here is why I was sexually assaulted. She never told me the new body search policy. She never told me that she was going to touch my private parts. She never told me when or where she was going to touch me. She did not inform me that a private screening was available. She did not inform me of my rights that were a part of these new enhanced patdown procedures.
When I booked my ticket, I was given no information that the TSA had changed their wand and unintrusive patdown procedures to “enhanced” patdown procedures that involved the touching of all parts of your body, including breasts and vagina on women and testicles and penis on men. I was not informed by any signs on the front side of security about the new procedures. I had not seen any media coverage about the issue, so I had no idea that this was a new government sanctioned policy.
Another important piece in this story, the Dayton airport does not have the new body scanners. I was not given any other search options. It was enhanced patdown, or nothing. (And I would have opted for the body scanner, if I were going to be subject to a sexual assault.)
I asked to speak to a supervisor immediately. I had a very unpleasant conversation with him that lasted 20 minutes. I moved to the back of the security area, made a few phone calls, including to my lawyer. He did some quick research, and learned that I had indeed been sexually assaulted because she did not follow the SOP (standard operating procedure) for the new search.
During our first conversation, the TSA acting manager of the shift told me that the TSA agent who sexually assaulted me was supposed to inform me about the new search procedure and tell me when and where she was going to touch me. He also apologized on behalf of himself and on behalf of the agent who sexually assaulted me. I was not allowed to speak to the agent who sexually assaulted me, nor did the acting manager provide me with her name. (I did not have the presence of mind to look at her nameplate, as I was in shock.)
I also spoke with the Dayton police, the Dayton airport police, and left a message for the TSA manager for the Dayton airport. I intend to request the TSA to arrange for counseling services to be provided to me, so I can deal with the aftermath of the sexual assault that took place, caused by the specific touching actions and failure to inform me of the policies by the TSA agent.
I am speaking out against the TSA and share my sexual assault case to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else, anywhere.
I will not be a silent victim of sexual assault by a TSA agent. Total Sexual Assault.
I am calling for immediate change to this new enhanced body patdown search.
I am calling for the TSA agent who sexually assaulted me to be fired.
I am calling for you, a fellow American, to stand up against these new enhanced full body patdown search procedures of the TSA.
Please note: I do plan on flying back to Ohio on Monday, because it will take me too long to drive home from Texas. I do not however intend to fly again until this search policy of sexual molestation is revoked by the TSA.
I will leave you with this thought: “It is acceptable and encouraged that a TSA government official can do something to an American citizen that US military personnel cannot do to a member of the Taliban.”
*UPDATE: Thank you all for the links and information about where and with whom I can share this. I am continuing to take action. Please feel free to leave other helpful information you find. I will be turning on comment moderation for the remainder of the day.
**UPDATE #2: I am in no way trying to belittle the experiences of sexual assault experienced by others. I hurt and ache for others who have been sexually assaulted.