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-   -   A pat down that ended my wife up in the ER (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/checkpoints-borders-policy-debate/1374235-pat-down-ended-my-wife-up-er.html)

bishop1847 Aug 6, 12 8:18 am

A pat down that ended my wife up in the ER
 
My wife and I had a horrific experience traveling out of FLL yesterday.

Five years ago, she was violently sexually assaulted by three men and was threatened with death. She made it, and tried to bury it for three years. After nightmares, flashbacks, and cutting she told me everything two years ago, and since then has been seeing professional counseling and taking medication. The incident happened in FL, but we now live elsewhere.

We were back in FL due to a death in the family - whenever we're there, she's always on edge (understandably). The security checkpoint had a backscatter and a metal detector active. I always opt-out, and unfortunately I was chosen to go through the metal detector instead of her. My wife was sent towards the backscatter, and told the TSO she didn't want to go through that. I then overheard the TSO graphically describing that "they will need to touch your privates..." (I know TSOs routinely scare people into going through the nude-o-scopes.) That just about did it for my wife, and she started shaking, sweating, and ended up going through the backscatter.

And then they discovered an "anomaly" in her bra, so she needed to be patted down on her breasts. This freaked her out even more. She asked for a private room and for me to be there, and it was obvious that this pissed off the female assist TSO. As she started shaking and sobbing in the room as the TSO began to touch her breasts, I gently touched her arm. Big mistake - the TSO yelled that I couldn't touch her and that I'd need to go through screening again.

I was furious, but my wife wanted to just get out of the checkpoint and to our gate. She popped some pills and was hoping it would all go away... But it didn't. Once we got to our home airport, she vomited in the bathroom and asked me to take her to the ER. Last night she checked into our local hospital, and they're wanting to transfer her to a psychiatric ward for a few days until she stabilizes.

Is this worth it? Had she been permitted to go through the metal detector, she would have been fine. But the language of the TSOs and lack of sympathy towards anyone with mental health issues is repulsive. Every mental health professional we've talked to despises what the TSA is doing.

Do rape victims or other people suffering with PTSD have any rights, or is it the usual "if you don't like it, don't fly!" bull?

DaddyRabbit Aug 6, 12 8:39 am

File a Complaint
 
Time to cause a fuss about this.

CDTraveler Aug 6, 12 8:40 am

All I can say is I am so sorry for your wife and so ashamed of what our country is doing to those who simply wish to travel.

GUWonder Aug 6, 12 8:43 am

Quote:

Originally Posted by DaddyRabbit (Post 19068043)
Time to cause a fuss about this.

... by doing more than just filing a complaint with the TSA. Also filing complaints with local, state and federal elected officials asking for this kind of situation to be addressed.

Media attention would probably make a big difference faster, but understandably a lot of persons who have been assaulted in such a manner may have no desire to become the public face of what the TSA's ways mean for them and other sex crime victims.

What the TSA has done to this country is so messed up on so many levels.

largeeyes Aug 6, 12 8:46 am

Makes me wonder if there was ever a time when common sense was common......I really don't know what to say here. I hope your wife gets the help she needs and can have a quick and full recovery.

mybodyismyown Aug 6, 12 8:53 am

I am appalled and outraged to hear about how the TSA assaulted and harmed your wife. Please convey my sincere concern to her. I want to reassure her that what happened at the checkpoint that day was absolutely not her fault and that her reaction was perfectly normal and understandable. The thugs who attacked her at FLL are immoral and violent sociopaths, indifferent to human suffering, as you witnessed.

I am also dealing with PTSD after the TSA sexually assaulted me, and I have had very similar experiences at various airports. I never checked in to a hospital, but I have certainly spent countless hours crying myself sick after these rapists in blue shirts attacked me.

I will never, ever allow them to touch me again. This means that if the TSA ever threatens to come near my body, I will refuse screening and demand that the police escort me out of the checkpoint. I have done this successfully before - the story is at http://tsanewsblog.com/76/news/how-s...sa-and-say-no/ and http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/check...my-flight.html

The answer to your question is, no, the TSA doesn't consider the impact of its assaults on rape victims or people sufferering with PTSD. The TSA doesn't care that your wife ended up in the hospital after they abused her. I called the "TSA Cares" helpline to tell them I'd been sexually assaulted and needed to know for certain whether they intended to touch my genitals in a patdown, and the answer was this: "I can't tell you where they will touch you. They'll tell you at the airport as they are doing it. Once you're there, you can't say no and you can't leave. You'll have to let them do it." Shocking, isn't it?

All I can recommend is what has worked fairly well for me - avoid checkpoints with body scanners. You can get an idea of what's where by visiting tsastatus.net

Mats Aug 6, 12 9:04 am

My best wishes to you and to your wife as she works to recover.

The CDC estimates that 1.3 million women were raped and 12.6 million men and women were victims of sexual assault in 2010. These numbers are estimates since not every assault is reported.

Roughly 2 million people fly every day in the United States. If one draws a Venn diagram, it's easy to see that those who have been raped and assaulted are going to pass through TSA checkpoints.

Due to institutionalized paranoia, political motivation, and mismanagement, the TSA continues its own institutionalized assault. It starts with the "barking," then it can be the "unwanted gaze" of viewing your body naked, a surprise frisk even though you have not set off a metal detector alarm, a naked scan and a surprise frisk, and often an inappropriate and unnecessarily rough and detailed frisking. Above all, this happens in view of the public, and it can happen again at the gate, where one can be humiliated and pulled out of line to be frisked in public (with threats that a "private screening" would lead to missing the flight.)

We've all seen quotes from passengers and crew: "they treated my like a criminal." Survivors of sexual assault have spoken up. But their voices are unheard. The TSA is just here to keep us safe. Keep us safe by irradiating us, stealing our belongings, and committing government-sanctioned sexual assault.

A psychologist colleague and I often talk about how the checkpoints inadvertently use language and symbols of the Holocaust. Terms like "Selectee" and "special" are euphemisms. One cannot ignore the image of a person standing in front of a massive group of travelers "selecting" which line to which they will be assigned. Please don't misconstrue this for me to say that TSA staff are connected to genocide; they're just inadvertently making references that strike fear into us.

Oddly, a psychiatrist just went on a rant about how he didn't mind being pulled out of line to be frisked because it "kept him safe." I rolled my eyes at his insensitivity.

If your wife is willing to talk about her experience, I don't suggest an "op ed" or news interview. It will just end up with a lot of reader comments about how the TSA is keeping us safe and "anything for security." The TSA will just respond that they have new technology that is less humiliating or PreCheck (which can only be used on rare occasions.)

If you are your wife are willing to come forward, talk to your Congressional representative or Senator. I mean that you should ask for a meeting--even by phone. A letter won't do it. Then contact your other Senator. If you're looking for a more powerful lobby, you could try the ACLU, but you may have more luck with ProPublica (they've already taken on the scanners, so they might be more interested.)

Speaking out is one way to overcome pain and to help others. I am saddened to think of how many other women (and men) who fly every day confront their past in silence.

PhillyPhlyer40 Aug 6, 12 9:35 am

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mats (Post 19068197)
If you are your wife are willing to come forward, talk to your Congressional representative or Senator.

OP-VERY sorry for your issues.

I think the above comment is very sound. As a lobbyist (err...consultant :D) I must say that more people should get involved w/their elected officials. Many times, the appointments will be with staffers, but if one continues, you can see "the person" in person! And they are-for the most part-very sympathetic to their voters feelings.

Try it-it might just give some push to get Congress to act!

Wally Bird Aug 6, 12 10:13 am

Yet another disgraceful episode.

OP can complain and publicize as much as he wants (and he should), but the pessimist in me says that nothing will be done, nothing will change. It won't until someone in authority with the will and the power to put and end to this emerges. Hasn't happened in 11 years and I see no candidates on the horizon.

Pitiful.

peachfront Aug 6, 12 10:40 am

What a terrible experience for you and especially your wife. Words don't describe.

I wish I had an easy answer like "write your Congresscritter," "Speak out and become a public face and force them to look you in the eye," etc. but I am not so sanguine that this advice is particularly good or useful. I think it is given to make the person giving the advice feel better, not because it would help you or your wife.

The problem I see here is that there are, literally, millions of survivors who have terrible stories and who may react to seemingly minor triggers. I don't think we can seriously ask the TSA or any other gov't agency to say, "Well, use your common sense, and excuse everyone from touching, secondary screening, etc who has a sad story." Most people with serious mental illness are of no harm to anyone but themselves. Still, we must use our common sense and defend against the tiny percentage who are both suicidal and willing to take out a lot of other people when they go. If someone has an extreme reaction of nerves and a terrible story, then I don't see how the TSA can do other than look at that person more closely.

"Don't fly" seems to me in your wife's case a more practical piece of advice. The family member who has passed wouldn't know she isn't at the funeral, and the family members who want to gossip or misunderstand because she's protective of her own mental health...I would say eff em. Protect your wife. Clearly it was too soon for her to ask her to return to Florida, and it may always be too soon. Blaming the TSA is just a bright shiny distraction. If she ends up in the ER over a patdown of her bra, then she can't fly, not really. It is asking too much to subject her to a known trigger of her illness.

The backscatter devices are worthless junk, I think we can all agree on that. They find the rubber band in my ponytail on virtually every trip -- something anyone with eyes in their head could have found without a million dollar machine. I think they should be removed, and the money wasted on them returned to the taxpayer for better funding/better training of live TSA agents. But I don't think this (which won't happen anyway) would help your wife. She was not assaulted by equipment, she was assaulted by people, and that I suspect is the real trigger.

Caradoc Aug 6, 12 11:34 am

Quote:

Originally Posted by peachfront (Post 19068745)
better training of live TSA agents

How do you propose "better training" for the untrainable?

MR_MAMA Aug 6, 12 11:40 am

I am so sorry for what your wife had to go through. At any point did she state that she was a victim of sexual assault and ask if she could go through the medical detector?

Personally, I would have refused to go through without discussing this with authorities first.

Not sure how they could make this a require,ent though.

I hope she will be ok. Prayers to the both of you.

Dea Certe Aug 6, 12 11:45 am

I had the same experience with a pat down by the TSA that left me in a full-blown panic attack. It took me hours to recover. The next time I'm selected for an assault, I'm making them do in front of everyone and will request that law enforcement witness it. I will make them announce exactly what they are planning to grope and I will repeat it loudly.

If I become panicked and am unable to continue to board my flight, I will request to speak with the station manager of the airline I'm flying.

Also, continue to write your Congressman and Senators.

Dea Certe Aug 6, 12 11:48 am

I do not need an extra dose of radiation and I don't think my choices should be a clumsy sexual assault or radiation.

mybodyismyown Aug 6, 12 12:13 pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by peachfront (Post 19068745)
The problem I see here is that there are, literally, millions of survivors who have terrible stories and who may react to seemingly minor triggers.

I have to say, I still fail to understand how anyone could classify strangers pressuring you to let them rub their hands on your sexual parts as a "minor trigger". I even know people personally who will tell me forcing sexual contact on someone through their clothing is no big deal, but as long as I live I will never comprehend that statement at all. Who you choose to allow to touch your sex organs isn't a big deal? On what planet?

Quote:

Originally Posted by peachfront (Post 19068745)
The backscatter devices are worthless junk, I think we can all agree on that. They find the rubber band in my ponytail on virtually every trip -- something anyone with eyes in their head could have found without a million dollar machine. I think they should be removed, and the money wasted on them returned to the taxpayer for better funding/better training of live TSA agents. But I don't think this (which won't happen anyway) would help your wife. She was not assaulted by equipment, she was assaulted by people, and that I suspect is the real trigger.

She would not have been patted down if she'd gone through a metal detector. In her case, yes, it was the fault of the body scanner that she was physically assaulted. Without the body scanners under current TSA practices, most but not all of the physical contact between screeners and passengers would go away.


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