Sexual misconduct on airplanes is not by any means an emerging trend so much as one that has existed since the dawn of public transportation, but it has no doubt become a hot button issue after recent allegations that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump allegedly groped a woman on a plane in the 1980s. Jessica Leeds came forward to The New York Times, saying, "He was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere ... It was an assault." And while a disturbing corner of the internet has devoted itself to undermining Leeds and the other women who have come forward with sexual assault allegations in the past few weeks with hashtags like "Next Fake Trump Victim," one woman took to Twitter to put the issue on blast — by live-tweeting an incident where she was groped on a plane.
Los Angeles-based writer and performer Ariana Lenarsky was on a flight on Oct. 22 when a man "grabbed" and "stroked" her calf, according to her tweets. With an impressive amount of wherewithal, she immediately took the man's picture and reported him to airline staff, who assured her they were filing a report and that local authorities would be waiting for him when the plane landed. Unfortunately, the airline wasn't quite able to deliver on that promise — revealing an incredibly murky and dangerous truth about in air assaults.
Shortly after the incident, Lenarsky discovered that the same man had assaulted yet another woman on the same flight, allegedly trying to kiss her. And while local authorities were on the ground to meet the plane, here's where the laws get just murky enough to leave victims feeling as powerless in the hands of authorities as they do when it happens — apparently, because the incident happened while the plane was in the air, they would have to get the FBI involved if they wanted to press charges.
Not only that, but it would be of great personal expense for her to see the charges filed — she would have to fly all the way back to Austin, Texas, the jurisdiction for the alleged crime.
Lenarsky responded in kind by tweeting a picture of the passenger, which has now been shared over 8,000 times since Oct. 22, and has inspired a barrage of supportive comments, many from women who have experienced the same kind of assault on planes themselves. Lenarsky's tweets certainly show an impressive amount of bravery in breaking the taboo of reporting incidents of sexual assault — according to the National Institute of Justice, it is estimated that only 26 percent of sexual assaults are reported — but it also shows an incredibly dangerous hole in our justice system. This kind of behavior shouldn't exist in the first place, let alone be the responsibility of a woman's time, money, and effort to discourage by reporting it. Reporting it should be as simple as that — telling someone that it happened, and trusting authorities to dole out proper punishment to discourage it from happening again. But Lenarsky's experience reveals that in terms of taking the blame and responsibility off of the victims of sexual assault, this country still has a long, long way to go.