Two Tales of TSA Sexual Assault

Eeeyikes. The furor against the TSA is growing and we can all feel it. The thing is, many people think that the new searching procedure is simply going too far. This November 24th has been declared (by online communities) TSA Opt Out Day and if successful, it’s going to be hell in the airports.

New backscatter body scanners are being implemented around the world, and citizens of all countries are well aware that these scanners not only show you naked to strangers watching the monitors (and people have been caught sexually exploiting the images), but that they emit a level of radiation that has pilots being urged to avoid for their health. In the US, passengers can opt-out* of being scanned and undergo a new full-body search that is reported as being extremely invasive. How invasive?

Two disturbing stories have just surfaced on blogs: today Our Little Chatterboxes popular mommyblogger Erin just put up the entry TSA – Sexual Assault. It is very disturbing.

(…) 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. [Link]

Clearly, the new search technique was not invented by a woman, or any kind of a survivor of sexual trauma. A week ago, PNC – Minnesota posted an account of another female traveler, Rape Survivor Devastated by TSA Enhanced Pat Down:

(…) “This was a nightmare come to life,” Celeste says, “I said I didn’t want them to see me naked and the agent started yelling Opt out- we have an opt here. Another agent took me aside and said they would have to pat me down. He told me he was going to touch my genitals and asked if I wouldn’t rather just go through the scanner, that it would be less humiliating for me. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I kept saying I don’t want any of this to happen. I was whispering please don’t do this, please, please.”

Since Celeste didn’t agree to go through the scanner, the enhanced pat down began. “He started at one leg and then ran his hand up to my crotch. He cupped and patted my crotch with his palm. Other flyers were watching this happen to me. At that point I closed my eyes and started praying to the Goddess for strength. He also cupped and then squeezed my breasts. That wasn’t the worst part. He touched my face, he touched my hair, stroking me. That’s when I started crying. It was so intimate, so horrible. I feel like I was being raped. There’s no way I can fly again. I can’t do it.” [Link]

* UK passengers do not have the Opt Out option and are required go through the scanners. Image credit: via.

Update 11.29.10: Here is another one – TSA Groin Searches Menstruating Woman (

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7 comments on “Two Tales of TSA Sexual Assault
  1. What if someone is the victim of a sexual assault, being treated like this could cause a breakdown. How can you threaten to arrest someone who is having a breakdown over being violated. Second, do they change gloves between groping persons vaginas ? You can transmit communicable disease by smearing bodily fluid from one person to another. This poor woman said that she had her labia rubbed and then her face rubbed, what sort of sanitary practice is this? What if the person is wearing a tampon, a sanitary napkin or a full bladder diaper. Is the screener going to pull it out and ask what it is? Some people have skin conditions that might be communicable, bugs or other conditions that would be mortifying to expose to all of the passengers in the waiting area. The tsa agent who wears the same gloves all day and they do, can transmit all sorts of unwanted grime. I am sure that they are going to have some persons that have been sexually abused in the past have deleterious reactions to have their privates rubbed by a goverment official.

  2. TSA officials shouldn’t be taking any criticism. Anyone can be a carrier of contraband. Abdulmuttalab was carrying explosives in his underwear on an international flight, so all Americans on domestic flights need to have their genitals felt and explored. This is hope and change. Enjoying it so far?

  3. @David, given that the tail end of your comment is obviously a swipe at Obama, perhaps you’d like to disclose which presidential candidate would have built a world where (as you suggest) to prevent international terrorism I wouldn’t need to have a TSA agent play pattycake with my junk at the airport? McCain? Bob Barr? Cynthia McKinney? Pat Buchanan? Ralph Nader?

    Security is not the same as misconduct. They are two unrelated issues, and effective law enforcement DOES respect individual rights. If you disagree, fine, but don’t fire torpedos at Obama and run for the hills — doing so de facto advocates a Republican revolution. Show the mettle to do so if that’s what you believe; to do otherwise is to be a troll.

  4. @Thomas Roche – Well, to name two candidates running in either major party’s primaries in the last round, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich spring to mind. Both wanted to dismantle the war on terrorism and do massive cutbacks on the military and security theater.

    I’d imagine that you could probably find others if you went to the third party candidates as well.

  5. @Rob Dodson — That’s fair. I wasn’t disagreeing with the idea that Obama’s record on this matter is disappointing.

    My demand that specific candidates be advocated was not a serious request, but an expectation that people who leave negative comments own up to their content. My objection was to people hurling epithets at Democrats and running; Republican strategists have explicitly and knowingly been using this technique for years to spread disinformation and fear without ever having to advocate specific policy changes. Democrats are often too afraid to take action to counter it.

    Furthermore, just to hate on both sides for a while, trolling is a classic conversational tool of the kind of Nader-only voters who actually don’t know that much about politics but act like they do because they are troubled by what they see, so just throw up their hands and insist that anyone who doesn’t vote Peace and Freedom doesn’t want “real change.”

    Such liberals, to my mind, muck up the debate by not understanding the specific issues involved, merely objecting to the very FACT that there the two parties together exercise control and eliminate third-party debate.

    Which I object to, but that sure as hell doesn’t make me advocate handing over the reins of the nation to the likes of John McCain, whom I HEARD SOME LIBERALS SAYING NICE THINGS ABOUT well after his Jeckyl and Hyde transformation into a right-wing freak. (which occurred WELL before he showed up on the 2008 ballot).

    Many liberal voters who objected to Gore and Kerry believed that there is “no difference” between the candidates. That has the same flavor as those on the left who seem to think that Obama’s missteps and malfeasances thus far are somehow the equal of Bush’s, Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s. I find such a suggestion bizarre in the extreme.

    If the result of Obama’s record on the TSA is that we get dozens more Republicans in the House, I feel duty-bound as a liberal to take a virtual nine-iron to the internet in search of the culprits.

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