Patdown Assault Trauma Syndrome: fear, shaking, sleeplessness, nightmares, and flashbacks

As one reads the letters from victims of TSA patdowns released last week, strong patterns emerge. Nearly every letter uses one of these turns of phrase: demeaning, degrading, dehumanizing, humiliating, violated, traumatized, sexually assaulted.

I want to focus on the travelers who described what happened afterwards: how did being coerced into letting TSA employees handle their genitals affect the victims? Many people cried and dissolved into shaking or nausea.

“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.”

“It is now over a week since I endured the following incident at Denver airport and I am still in total shock and intensely sickened that a situation like this can occur at any U.S. airport. I have NEVER been treated with such lack of respect in all the many miles I have traveled here and internationally. Additionally, in my clinical practice I cannot imagine treating a patient in this manner! It was dehumanizing.

“I cannot emphasize enough that I was totally, but totally, shell-shocked. Nothing like this had ever happened in my life before and I felt like I was in a totalitarian dictatorship. No rights, belongings, no personal worth, nothing. I was nauseated to the extreme and could barely think. Of course by this time my flight had departed.”

“This thorough patdown was horrifying. (Please forgive this most graphic and embarrassing description.) She ran her hand and patted (more like groped) every part of my body, all around and over my breasts, up my legs, and literally patted every inch of my groin – front and then back. I felt like crying, hitting her, curling up in a ball, and screaming all at once. I have never felt like I had been sexually assaulted before this incident. I was shaking and infuriated for hours.”

“They touched my genitals four times and then my breasts. I was sobbing by the end of it. I am sentenced to this violation again tomorrow and every time I fly. I am an abuse survivor and this is traumatic to require this violation. I must fly home tomorrow and I don’t know how I’ll get through it.”

“I have a history of physical as well as sexual abuse, and I experienced the rough touching as violating. My PTSD kicked in and I began to cry. I was asked again if I would like a private screening, but to a person who has been violated, there is less security in a private area than being in a public area. By now there were 4-5 TSA workers gathered around me and focusing the attention of other travelers on me. I again began to cry and shake.

“I am a strong person. I know all the coping techniques for handling a trauma-inducing situation and my techniques failed me. I want to be free to travel by air and enjoy my professional as well as personal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Others assaulted by the TSA reported sleep disturbances, nightmares, and flashbacks to the experience.

“I spent many a sleepless night since this experience wondering what I did wrong to deserve this type of treatment by my government.”

“On November 2, 2010 I arrived at SeaTac airport where, unbeknownst to me, the intrusive patdown protocol had been instituted. I really could not have imagined that some stranger would put her hand up my legs to my groin, down my buttocks, and across my breasts that were not even encased in a bra – and all this was done with hundreds of people milling around to watch the ‘show’.  My initial reaction was to scream or to use my hands to protect myself. At the gate and on the plane, out of total frustration and anger I fought back tears. For the next four days while I was attending a major international scientific meeting I had difficulty falling asleep as I relived the awful experience. I had nightmares about it and wondered if I would have to travel across the country by train to get home. The difficulty falling asleep has persisted and the process of writing this letter has only worsened the insomnia.

“I was powerless. Some strange woman was going to put her hands on my breasts and groin and I had absolutely no recourse. When I returned to Seattle I resigned from [a group] which meets in Washington DC, because I refuse to travel by air until this process is corrected.”

“She was subjected to the most intimidating and humiliating sexual molestation I have ever witnessed. As a former rape victim in college, she was forced to relive this horrific event as she was reduced to tears and trembling. Numerous women who fly daily experience similar trauma, many quietly, as our government uses these highly sexual and intrusive measures to ‘protect’ us. My wife’s horrific experience has caused this million-mile flyer subsequent nightmares, sleeplessness, and a genuine fear of flying.”

Still others described ongoing emotional symptoms: powerlessness, rage, fear, and depression.

“The further humiliation and violation of the patdown is more than I can tolerate. I wish to make a formal complaint of sexual abuse and harassment. No one should have to endure having their body felt up three times in a 30-day period. I feel violated and depressed and disconsolate about what has happened to me and I am very fearful about what I will endure when I travel again. What can I do to be completely assured that no TSA person will put their hands on my body? I can not stress enough to you how outraged and upset I am. I think that if another TSA person touches me again, I may strike them.”

“The patdown was very deliberate and invasive causing soreness in my groin area for several hours. I believe the patdown was an invasion of privacy as well as an assault, in addition to being embarrassing, physically painful, and causing me long term emotional distress. I can not physically or mentally withstand the same experience again. [Must] I discontinue flying until some sanity has returned to your organization?”

“Your agent manipulated my breasts – pushing her hand under and in between them. Then she proceeded to tell me she was going to check my inner thighs, starting at the juncture of my upper leg. However, your agent was either so ignorant of human anatomy or simply a sexual pervert hiding behind a badge because she rammed – and I emphasize the word rammed – her hand up in between my labia until it hit my pelvic bone. Then she spread my labia and felt all the way down my leg for whatever she felt I must have been hiding. I thought at first that this was a clumsy and insensitive move on her part but she repeated the same procedure when ‘investigating’ the left-hand side of my labia and inner leg. I burst into tears at this demeaning and dehumanizing invasion of my privacy and could not think or see clearly.

“I have no choice but to fly every week, so I must subject myself to the physical, invasive torture every single time I trip the metal detector, which will be every time because of my metal implants in my hips. I love my job and desperately need the work but I may have to quit because I am becoming depressed and moody. To be honest, I feel that I am suffering from stress that is typical of victims of sexual assault. I feel hopeless and helpless. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, and I am finding it difficult to do my job. I know full well that [TSA agents] have the power and authority to deny me access to the plane that I need to board to go to work or to return to what little sanctity I have left in my home.”

As the latter letter-writer notes, the symptoms that all these victims describe are the same as those associated with sexual assault trauma – crying, shaking, and nausea in the moment; nightmares, insomnia, and lasting fear and depression as the trauma is processed. It matters little whether TSA’s search procedures are legally classified as sexual assault or not – for a significant population, the impact of a patdown and sexual trauma will be similar, and profound.

What’s heartbreaking is how worthless and pointless all of this pain is. How many ceramic knives or weapons of mass destruction has the TSA ever found in between the folds of a woman’s labia? How exactly could having strangers spreading open the skin at the entrance to a teenage girl’s vagina against her will make her ‘safe’?

TSA Administrator John Pistole has said of patdowns and body scanners, “Yeah, it’s inconvenient.” Compare that to what the Supreme Court had to say about bodily integrity in UNION PAC. RY. CO. v. BOTSFORD, 141 U.S. 250 (1891):

The inviolability of the person is as much invaded by a compulsory stripping and exposure as by a blow. To compel any one, and especially a woman, to lay bare the body, or to submit it to the touch of a stranger, without lawful authority, is an indignity, an assault, and a trespass; and no order of process, commanding such an exposure or submission, was ever known to the common law in the administration of justice between individuals.

The excerpts above are drawn from just one sample of TSA complaint letters from the months of November and December 2010. Many thousands of others have similar tales to tell. How many more men, women, and children will suffer before someone with even a trace of compassion intervenes to set things right at the TSA?

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Phil Bartle)

  • Michele

    Lots of complaining with no results. No one cares. This article feeds the perversion. RRRRRR!!! I am so frustrated.

    • Michele, we’re all frustrated. And yes, the worthless wankers in Congress don’t care (more of them and their family members need to be abused before they’ll get it), and millions of Americans don’t care. But those of us who believe in civil liberties and think the Bill of Rights is more than just a snippet from a quaint document do care. And we’re not going to stop fighting.

  • MsFelix50

    This is exactly what they want from us as citizens. They want us to accept humiliation and and degradation as an ordinary part of life. Sexual assault is the lowest form of humiliation, but surely being witness to sexual assault is pretty horrible. Don’t forget their constant verbal abuse towards passengers, excessive theft of passengers’ belongings, the constant surveillance and absolute lack of privacy. Big Brother is watching us get sexually assaulted at airports. I hear their next stupid scheme is machines that measure heart rate, facial expressions, and anxiety levels. Are we not even allowed to keep our fear anymore? What’s next, mind reading machines?? God why do people take airplanes anymore, the extra time it takes for a train or bus to get to a destination is worth it. I’d even prefer taking a boat to another country or departing from Canadian/Mexican airports than taking a fucking American airplane. I’m surprised no one has bombed airports for this reason alone and if that happens I may feel surprisingly passive at the situation. The government has created a ticking bomb with the TSA, The Sexual Assault organization that has currently invaded our airports

  • guest233

    Dear God this must stop! America have you lost your senses?? How can you allow your wives,mothers,daughters and sons to be subjected to this degradation??!!

    • guest233, you’re so right: Americans have lost their senses. I’m reposting here something I’ve reprinted all over the place since I first saw it two years ago — a comment made by a reader at the New York Times. It says it all:

      “Question: What kind of a man knowingly surrenders his own daughter to one of us government workers to be molested, standing by passively even as her private parts are fondled while she screams ‘Daddy Daddy, please help me!’ Answer: an American man.
      I speak only to you men when I say you gutless cowards will be lining up to hand over your wives and daughters in our airports, it will happen hundreds of time each day across our USA. You had better start explaining to your children that we government employees are allowed to touch their private parts whenever we want; it will make the whole thing a lot less dramatic. Seriously, the 1st time is always the worst. The next time you get molested will not feel as disturbing as we accommodate you to our abuses.

  • Joel Hruska

    Posts like this leave me torn. I believe that the people who write these letters are in earnest, that they accurately report what they felt and experienced. I feel bad for them.

    But as someone who has flown and been subject to this type of patdown, it’s absolutely untrue that to claim that people are being sexually assaulted or raped. I accept that these individuals are *reminded* of past events in which they were so violated. The immediacy of such recollections is why PTSD is so debilitating. But if a patdown is conducted according to TSA regulations, no reasonable person can claim to have been somehow sexually assaulted.

    I don’t like the TSA. I think it’s security theater of the highest order, that these patdowns are an ineffective means of screening, and that they cause harm to a tiny minority of people. Those experiences are valid. They do not make what the TSA does “rape.”

    • Joel Hruska, of course not all “patdowns” constitute rape. But some do, according to the FBI’s own definition. Penetrating a person is rape. And when TSA agents jam their fingers or parts of their hands — or a metal detector wand — into someone, that’s rape.

      But this is missing the forest for the trees. Touching someone against his or her will is assault. Touching someone’s genitals against his or her will is sexual assault. Doesn’t have to rise to the level of rape. And just because it’s never happened to you — or because you don’t mind it — doesn’t make it okay.

      People are being touched against their will every day in this country by the TSA. That’s assault.

      Millions of them are being bullied, harassed, threatened, robbed, stripped, or groped by these thugs. The TSA has absolute power. You don’t have to have originated the saying “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” to get it.

      The broader point is that our 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure no longer exists. It’s a fantasy. Because the government has made it so, and because too many people are going along with it.

    • Hi Joel, I can tell you from personal experience that yes, the TSA does rape people. They raped me. I was at BWI, flagged because I was wearing a skirt, and then a woman pushed a metal-detecting wand up my skirt and into my body, pushing apart my labia and lodging my underwear so far inside me that I had to go to the restroom to retrieve it. The TSA knows this happened, because I reported it through several different official channels including letters to my Congressional representatives. The TSA’s response was that it was very difficult to search women without “contacting them” so while my “genital area was violated”, the “search was conducted properly.” Yes, the TSA says inserting foreign objects into women being searched is “proper procedure”. I’m quoting directly from their letter. Other women including Amy Alkon have reported being penetrated with hands and fingers through their clothing. There was another letter (not quoted above) in which a man said, “I had to ask him to remove his finger from my anus.”

      Apart from the fact that TSA knows their procedures carry the risk of (perhaps unintentional) rape, the rubbing and handling of genitals through clothing is definitely classified as sexual assault when it’s unwelcome. I think most people would not welcome the TSA rubbing their labia or testicles, so all of these encounters are sexual assaults.

      It’s actually shocking to me, as someone who is in the group of people painfully traumatized by this unwelcome touching, to find out that there are people who let strangers forcibly rub and grab their breasts, balls, penis, without feeling upset about the experience. I accept your report as valid, though – you don’t find having an unknown man’s hand weighing your testicles upsetting. The pain of these “patdowns” just falls unfairly on many people: the disabled, those with medical metal, those with PTSD, those who are just plain protective of their bodies as they have a right to be. Thank you for validating my experience of this as traumatic, in any case.

      • Joel Hruska

        Lisa, Sommer:

        The TSA relies upon the doctrine of implied consent. You have the right to exit the line, retrieve your baggage, and refuse to fly.

        That doesn’t make it right or fair. It doesn’t excuse what happened to you, Sommer, or other people. But it *is* the legal cover for what you’re calling assault.

        • Joel, of course. But there’s lots of shit that’s legal but still wrong.

          Also, nothing like what’s described here has ever happened to me, because I took the last flight of my life in September 2010, before the Reign of Molestation was implemented. I used to travel, a lot. I love travel more than I can say. But I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. And while the TSA is assaulting people, I refuse to condone it or submit to it.

        • Dazymae

          Actually, Joel, you are mistaken. Once you enter the checkpoint, you are not allowed to leave.

          • Dazymae, that’s what the TSA would like us to believe, but in fact it’s not true. You can leave. You’ll forfeit your flight, of course. Sommer did; she wrote about it here at TSA News:

            How to stand up to the TSA and say “no”

          • Dazymae

            According to what TSA says, you don’t have the right to leave. Sommer made a very dogged and determined stand. She was so determined that they finally let her go, but many others have been told by TSA they do not have the right to leave. Others have been arrested (Claire Hirschkind) or threatened with $11,000 fines (John Tyner).

            The point I’m making is that it’s not as simple to leave as Joel implies. Even of we technically have the right to leave, TSA seldom honors our rights and seldom follows their own guidelines. The chances of being assaulted or arrested for “disorderly conduct” are greatly increased for anyone who refuses to complete the screening process.

    • Dazymae

      I would like to reply to your statement that TSA practices do not constitute rape. I am going to be somewhat graphic in my reply, so readers who might be offended should stop reading now.

      When I was 11years old, I was sexually assaulted by an adult relative. The assaults happened on three separate occasions. Fortunately for me, there were other adults nearby, and I was able to outwit and escape the pedophile before he could carry out his ultimate agenda of penetration.

      I never told anybody what happened until I was 30 years old. When I finally told someone, I was shocked by their reaction of extreme horror. I said, Don’t worry. It’s no big deal because I wasn’t raped.

      Since there was no penetration, I did not understand that a rape had occurred. After all, he “only” rubbed and squeezed my breasts through my clothing. He “only” rubbed my vagina and buttocks through my clothing. He “only” smiled and grinned and leered at me while he did these things. He “only” told me how pretty I was. He “only” tried to lure me into a private room. He “only” used his power as an adult to detain me against my will and to use me and my body for his own gratification. Since there was no penetration of genitals, there was no rape, right?

      In the years following that reveal to a friend, I have acknowledged and come to terms with the fallout from that sexual assault. I have lead a very rich life. I have been a teacher, a court reporter, a theatre professional, a living historian, and a public speaker. I have a wonderful marriage and many wonderful friends.

      However, the instant I learned about the nude scanners and the gropedowns being carried out by TSA, I went into an absolute meltdown. I did not sleep for a week. Every time I tried to imagine myself standing in one of those scanners in that awful degrading pose knowing that someone Ina back room would be viewing me naked, I started sobbing and shaking.

      Many people may view that as an overreaction. After all, the TSA is “only” viewing you naked from a back room. TSA is “only” touching your breast, buttocks, and genitals through your clothing (although many, many people have had their breasts, buttocks, and genitals touched inside their clothing). TSA is “only” detaining you or taking you into a private room. TSA is “only” using your body for its own gratification. That’s not a rape, after all.

      You need to realize that the most horrendous component of a rape or sexual assault is the absolute powerless you have when you are the victim. It’s not simply the actual physical acts that are perpetrated upon you. One sexual act forced upon you is not more vile or evil than another sexual act that is forced upon you.

      The most horrendous part of a rape is knowing that you are absolutely helpless…knowing that this perpetrator can do absolutely anything he or she wishes to do…and the terrifying fear of what he or she will do before it is finished.

      TSA has absolute power. They are answerable to no one. Once you have entered the checkpoint, you are not free to leave until TSA says so. If a screener chooses to touch your breasts, genitals, or buttocks, whether over your clothing or inside your clothing, there is nothing you can do about it. If a screener chooses to sneer at you, scream at you, degrade you while they are touching your body, there is nothing you can do about it. If a screener chooses to tell you that you have “pretty hair” or talk about your “cute figure” while screening you, there is nothing you can do about it. If a screener wants to detain you in a glass cage or a private room, there is nothing you can do about it. If a screener chooses to make you strip, there is nothing you can do about it.

      This is total and absolute helplessness before an all powerful entity…an entity who can do anything it chooses to you and your body. Once a TSA screener gets started with you, there is no limit to how far he or she can take it…no limit to what he or she can do to you.

      And to top it all off, you are not allowed to complain, defend yourself or even wince. In fact, you’re expected to pretend that you are grateful and appreciative…just as I was forced to pretend that I liked what that pedophile did to me when I was eleven.

      How is this not a rape?

      • Joel Hruska


        You raise enough points that I’m going to respond to this in sections.


        I feel for you. As one human to another, I’m sorry that thinking about the TSA’s procedures or going through them evokes such a horrifying response. I’m sorry that you were abused when you were a child, I’m sorry that the events of your childhood have sprung back to poison your adult life with such negative consequences.

        I know people with PTSD. I’m not going to tell you to “get over it,” that it “wasn’t that bad,” or that you shouldn’t feel traumatized because you weren’t penetrated. Your response reads like that of someone who expects to have to defend the validity of her feelings or experience. I’m not going to challenge those, either.

        I’m going to move to the other questions you raise, but I consider this to be the most important point and I wanted to make it first.

      • Joel Hruska

        2) “How is this not a rape?”

        This is an *enormously* complicated question. Rape is extremely difficult to define. The discussion surrounding the FBI’s recently updated definition is proof of this.

        Your semi-rhetorical question perfectly illustrates the problem. You have made it clear that you would feel raped if you were to go through TSA screening. It’s neither my place or desire to argue with what you “should” or shouldn’t feel. I’m not a woman, I’ve never been sexually assaulted.

        But herein lies the problem: We can’t accurately define a legal question based on feelings.You have described what happened to you, why the TSA’s regulations remind you of that situation, and how the shifting power dynamic resembles that of a raper/rapist situation. Those experiences and observations are true and valid, but they aren’t the basis for a legal definition.

        This problem doesn’t just apply to rape. Whenever feelings and the law intersect, life gets very messy. If you’re married to someone with a child and you haven’t legally adopted that child, you have zero legal rights. If the biological parent you are in a relationship with dies and blood family goes to court for custody, you will almost certainly lose.

        The law has carved out a set of activities related to security screenings that it deems acceptable. These activities, according to the government, do not constitute rape or any form of sexual assault. This is typically established through doctrines like implicit consent.

        I would answer your question in two ways:

        A) “How is this not rape?”

        It is not rape *because it fails to satisfy the legal definition of what rape is.* The law recognizes rape as a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assaults are legally considered rapes. There are degrees and classifications in the various states.

        B) “How is this not rape?”

        It *is* rape. Why? Because you feel like it is. You have the right to make that determination. You have the right to feel raped, the right to lobby for changing the law, the right to speak your mind, protest to Congresspeople, and participate in discussions on the topic.

        Which is true? Both of them. Simultaneously.

        • I disagree that the law has ever defined the exact limits of what is acceptable in security screenings. Some established legal precedent could be interpreted to mean that strip searches without particularized suspicion are unlawful, but the TSA asserted in court that it could change tomorrow to a full strip search protocol if it chose to. Some established legal precedent says these searches must be the least intrusive means necessary, and that they must be done in public, and not have a tendency to reveal too much “innocent but potentially embarrassing” information. I would argue that all three of these caveats have been broken by TSA’s current screening processes. No legislation places limits on the TSA’s searches – they could start anally probing people tomorrow for all the law has to say about it. The TSA has successfully fended off nearly every court challenge on purely procedural grounds: for instance, see:

          ” However, the cases were dismissed on the grounds that the court has no jurisdiction in TSA matters. In justifying the dismissal, U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. cited a “secret” order issued by the TSA as the basis for ruling that the D.C. Court of Appeals must hear any challenge to TSA procedures. Insisting that the order contains “sensitive security information,” the government has yet to make public the document outlining the TSA enhanced screening procedures.”

          The TSA admits its search procedures are only codified in a “secret rule”. How can we consent when TSA won’t tell us what the search entails?

          I am okay with your denying that TSA commits rape, although clearly in my case and a few others that I know about, the FBI’s definition of rape has been met by TSA’s actions. But it is just not true that any court or any legislation has ever decided that the TSA’s current patdown methods are acceptable. There’s a conflicted and arguable set of precedents that could go either way, and TSA has so far used legal tricks to keep the true issues from ever being raised in court.

          • Joel Hruska


            If the letters you quoted above are true, I certainly agree that the people in question were sexually assaulted and possibly raped. I’m just not sure such actions can be described as adhering to TSA policy.

            As for the overreaches and closed-door nature of the rules process, we are in complete agreement.

  • ted

    I will not fly to the US if I have a choice. I worry about my flights being diverted to US jurisdiction and being assaulted by the TSA. I am not even a US citizen. If they treat US citizens so badly, I can only imagine that non-citizens are treated worse. Once I board an aircraft, I am effectively a prisoner until I get off.

    • ted, I don’t blame you. I’ve told all my friends abroad not to come to the U.S. anymore. Of course they don’t believe it’s as bad as I say it is. They’re in denial, just like so many Americans.

    • MsFelix50

      Take Amtrak, seriously they don’t even check your bags. There are no arbitrary check points, you get on the train, arrive at your destination worry free, and get off. You can bring food, your computer, music, books, 900 oz of liquid if you want to. The bathrooms aren’t cramped and disgusting and you don’t have to sit next to smelly people. In fact you can get your own seat if the train isn’t too crowded most of the time. I’m surprised people still take airplanes. It’s not worth it to travel anymore, or if you do, take a plane from Canada.

  • NewsMom

    Finally, someone understands the horror many of us feel.

  • I agree with most of this article but it was obviously written by a feminst. It is just as traumatizing for men to go through this procedure. I am a commercial pilot and I can not fly any more. I had to give up my child hood dream, my profession, my education, etc, because I personally got Sexually Assaulted at KLAS. Please people realize, women are NOT the only victims in this world. They just get more sympathy.

    • Dee Jaye, the excerpts from the letters are not written by the author of this post; they are written by the people — men and women — who submitted the letters. And the author’s final sentence is: “How many more men, women, and children will suffer before someone with even a trace of compassion intervenes to set things right at the TSA?”

    • Dazymae

      Dee Jaye,

      I was just as horrified by the stories of men who had their genitals attacked as I was by the stories of the women. No human being regardless of gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation should be subjected to a brutal, demeaning, degrading sexual assault as described by these people in these letters.

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    Great article. It is documented that violence breeds violence. The TSA violence is causing serious damage to our society. How many of the TSA abused children will grow up not being able to form steady relationships due to this abuse? And how many of them will resort to violence and sexual abuse themselves when they are not able to deal with life’s difficulties?

    • Dazymae

      That’s a horrifying thought. So much for TSA keeping us “safe”! John Pistole, Janet Napolitano, George Bush, and Barack Obama have a lot to answer for. I think there is a special place in Hell reserved for all four of them.

  • My experience with TSA did not come anywhere near this, just getting my luggage ripped apart for an hour late Christmas day 2009. During that trip I decided that I would not be an airport customer any longer if I was going to be treated like a criminal before I was proven to be one.

    I really wish people would think past the “what did I do to deserve this.” The answer is – nothing !

    • MsFelix50

      Besides the constant sexual assault, the basic concept of TSA is what really bothers me the most. The fact that you are considered guilty without even having committed a crime, is disturbing Owellian thought crime that needs to die. You see so many people protesting bs issues like abortion, Wall Street, yes they are important….but how many people are out there protesting this horror created by the Bush administration?

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  • 1amWendy

    This gives me shivers, Sommer. It brings back my memories: the dozens of times while on business I would be shaking in my hotel room after yet another assault by some nameless TSA screener. I couldn’t sleep. I would pace and my mind would race, the thoughts just jumbling, tumbling around in my mind… and then again on the night before my next scheduled trip. Couldn’t sleep with the anxiety of knowing I would be assaulted the next day. Had I not finally put my foot down and said “NO MORE!” I would have probably ended up physically and emotionally ill – and all at the hands of the TSA.

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  • Phil Weber

    Sommer, thanks for this post. I read all 205 pages of the FIOA results last week when I was preparing to write about David Castelveter. Castelveter and the TSA management team have dismissed media reports on TSA abuse as “exaggerated if not unfounded.” These letters put the lie to that claim. They are a horrifying. They are a terrible, powerful indictment of the TSA. If anything, the media has been unable to convey the sheer terror and anguished voices asking over and over again, “why? why is my own government doing this to me?”
    It’s no wonder the TSA doesn’t want to hold court-ordered hearing on their scan-and-grope program.
    This disgrace must end.

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  • iamchj

    Many, many thousands of times more. So long as the people submit, the abuse will continue.

  • Drontil

    According to the laws of most states, and more recently, the FBI, the TSA commits rape every single day, multiple times a day, though unwanted touch of the genitals, even though clothing. TSA gropes are designed to humiliate or degrade and change the behavior of passengers, i.e., make them choose to go through WBI. Humiliation and behavior changes through forced touching are also illegal in many states.

    No one willfully consents to this type of touching, no matter what the TSA claims. Any consent, even implied consent, is invalidated by the illegal acts of the TSA.

    • Thank you for bringing up the issue of consent. No one *can* consent to this type of touching, for at least three reasons:
      (1) The most basic aspect of consent is to know what one is consenting to. The TSA does not disclose the search procedure at all until it is too late to refuse the search. Many people still believe that the TSA does not touch genitals, and the TSA has steadfastly refused to describe exactly what will be touched and how in a patdown.
      (2) Consent must be freely given in the absence of coercion. TSA clerks frequently coerce passengers into sexually deviant acts by saying, “Do you want to fly today?” Incidentally, the answer to that question is always “Not if it means letting you sexually assault me.”
      (3) Minor children are being patted down, with or without their or their parents’ consent. Someone under 16 or 18 is not legally able to consent to sexual touching in most states, nor can their parents consent to it for them.

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