Compared with a typical year, 2021 saw a tenfold spike in reported complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding unruly and dangerous passenger behavior on airplanes. With fewer travelers due to COVID-19 restrictions and vocal arguments about mask regulations in enclosed spaces, many aircraft crimes have been loud confrontations. Despite these noteworthy incidents, another type of offense is quieter but no less consequential for its victims: in-flight sexual assaults.
While no two incidents are the same, this article will identify common patterns of sexual offenders onboard aircraft, recommend best practices for investigators, and offer real case examples. Increased awareness about offender mindset can provide a broad and creative toolbox when investigating these crimes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim. However, sexual assaults on airplanes stand out because the victims usually do not know their assailants.