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NSVRC, TSA explore impact of security procedures on sexual assault survivors
Tracy Cox, Communications Director
877-739-3895 ext 116
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
For Immediate Release
ENOLA, PA – The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has engaged in a series of conversations with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to discuss clarifications and improvements to airport screening procedures. In response to feedback from sexual assault survivors, the NSVRC has informed TSA that their current screening procedures involving full-body scans and enhanced pat-downs cause some travelers to feel victimized, and may induce anxiety, stress, confusion, or even panic. This may be compounded by other situations and emotions often associated with travel, such as grief or separation from loved ones.
Clearly, there is misinformation circulating about the enhanced screening procedures recently implemented in some U.S. airports. Individuals should be assured to know that the agent looking at the Advanced Imaging Technology screen is not able to see travelers; and that a screener looking at the traveler is not able to see the electronic image generated by the Advanced Imaging Technology. Also, the equipment used by TSA for this purpose does not allow for the images to be saved, stored, printed or transmitted.
The NSVRC urges TSA to continue exploring technological solutions to airport security procedures. Ultimately, we are striving for a “hands off” screening approach for travelers. As long as enhanced pat-downs are required for some passengers, we recommend that TSA offers options and privacy whenever possible, and that information is readily available for passengers in advance to help prepare them both physically and emotionally.
“We appreciate the TSA’s willingness to work with us. They have agreed to work with us in several areas including making some improvements in training,” says Karen Baker, NSVRC Director. “We have similar goals – to create and maintain a society that is safe and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”
According to TSA, two million people travel through U.S. airports each day. The percentage of those travelers who will experience an enhanced pat-down is approximately 3 percent; it is imperative that screeners be sensitive to the variety of emotions and reactions that may arise. Sexual violence is more common than many people realize. Approximately 20 percent of the population has experienced some form of sexual assault during their lifetime. This means that on any given day, approximately 400,000 survivors of sexual assault travel through airports and, given the TSA estimates above, around 12,000 of them may be subjected to enhanced pat-downs.
The NSVRC recognizes that being a TSA agent is a difficult job. Most are diligent in carrying out their responsibilities professionally. Some of them may also feel negative emotions related to the enhanced procedures, because of their own experiences with victimization, or simply due to the stressful nature of their jobs.
The NSVRC welcomes ongoing dialogue with TSA regarding enhanced security measures and how they may affect survivors of sexual violence and other travelers.
The NSVRC highlights prevention initiatives throughout the country and facilitates connections between anti-sexual violence advocates while offering training and technical assistance, referrals, consultation, systems advocacy, online tools and library resources. For more information, visit www.nsvrc.org or call 877-739-3895.