Monday, November 22, 2010

Is TSA Setting A New Legal Precedent On What Defines A Sexual Assault?

by Vicki Polin

Over the last several days, I've been paying close attention to our government's response to the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA's) newest measures of providing security in airports. Why? Because, for the last 26 years, I've been actively involved in educating the public on good touch/bad touch and helping individuals understand what defines a sexual assault. It appears that over the last few weeks, all that work has been thrown out the window by the TSA with its new aggressive and mandatory pat-down body searches.

What concerns me most is that the actions of TSA agents could be legally defined as a sexual assault. I don't care that the TSA supervisors are saying that's not the case. According to the laws of our land, it is. The legal definition of a sexual assault includes: "Any unwanted physical contact to one's genitals." Groping or fondling another persons sexual organs against their will is never OK. When anyone purposely brushes up on an individuals genitals against the intended victims wishes, it is considered a sexual assault. I'll be honest with you; my fear is that a new legal precedent is being set by the TSA. If we stand by and do nothing, this could end up with sexual assault laws being changed.

I am aware that in prisons and in some mental health facilities they do strip searches and force inmates and patients to squat while the individual is naked to ensure the safety of the individual and others in the facilities, which I at times have had an issue with based on the way it's done. Yet to do this randomly to those who are not criminals or declared a danger to themselves or to someone else is ridiculous. What comes next? Pat downs on city streets in gang-infested neighborhoods?

I'm not a lawyer; I am a psychotherapist who has been advocating for the rights of survivors of sex crimes for more than a quarter of a century. If we all sit back and do nothing, and if there is non-action by our legislators and or the rest of our federal government, this becomes very scary. By doing nothing, our government is stating that sexual assault is not a crime, especially if the perpetrator is one of their employees. If we start allowing TSA agents to sexually assault our citizens as well as visitors to our country, how long will it take before judges begin using this legal precedent in cases involving other governmental employees or agencies that receive federal funding, such as law enforcement officials, postal workers and or any other agency that receives federal funding. Think about it; it could also include school employees, camp counselors, hospital employees, religious, other nonprofit organizations, and more.

By sitting back and allowing the TSA to perpetrate sexual assaults against our citizens, what messages are we sending out not only to your children but to the rest of the world? America is a great country, yet we complacently allow our citizens to be assaulted by the government? We are all screwed if we allow that to happen.

Is this necessary for our security. No. The Israeli airline, El Al--which is known to have the tightest security of all airlines--would never allow this type of behavior. Recently on "Countdown with Keith Obermann," in a segment titled "If you touch my junk I'll have you arrested," Isaac Yeffet, the former security director of El Al, said he views TSA's current behavior as outrageous.

Judge for yourself. Here's Yeffet's interview:
Vicki Polin, a licensed clinical professional counselor, is founder and director of The Awareness Center, Inc., an international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault.


Anonymous said...

Funny Video on TSA

Dr. Gina Simmons said...

Men and women victimized by sex offenders find the type of search you describe to be quite unbearable. You bring up an interesting point: How does this change the definition of sexual abuse and how much will this generalize to other settings where security is a concern?

Mystic_Mom said...

From a security standpoint I don't see how this helps. From a survivor stand point and a mother there is NO WAY I'd subject myself or my family to this sort of treatment. How many survivors have had flashbacks and triggers from this? How many people have been harmed in the name of 'security'? Like TSA doesn't know how to do it better? Of course they do...but will they ask and learn? Errr....maybe not...

Delilah said...

Thank you for addressing this issue from the viewpoint of those who have been sexually abused or assaulted. Where are their rights in all of this? We hear about triggers, and if being patted down by a stranger wouldn't give a victim a trigger, I'm not sure what would!

Clearly we are on a slippery slope, slowly relinquishing our rights as, not only Americans, but as human beings. If we allow this to continue, what happens next?

Anonymous said...

Technically it is not unwanted contact when you consent. By voluntarily going on an airplane you are giving implied consent that you will be searched

cheryl said...

Anon, that is very convoluted thinking. The whole point is that the "enhanced" pat downs, genital groping and all should not be allowed. Among many other reasons is the fact that people who have been sexually abused may find the "enhanced" pat down quite traumatic.
The rules are ridiculous as they are being carried out. Napolitano and her TSA thugs should be ashamed.

Vicki Polin said...

Over the last few weeks, those who have been pat-down, did not know when they booked their flights they were also giving permission to our government to grope and grab our genitals (be sexually assaulted).