Most flight attendants are subjected to sexual harassment by passengers, according to a survey by the Association of Flight Attendants.
The survey, the first of its kind from the flight attendants’ union, reported that 68% of flight attendants experience sexual harassment during their flying careers.
More than a third of survey respondents said they experienced verbal sexual harassment from passengers within the last year. Of that group, 68% said they experienced it three or more times, while one-third said it happened five or more times.
“This is a silent epidemic in our country,” AFA president Sara Nelson, who’s been a flight attendant for 23 years, told CNNMoney. “This is an industry that is steeped in a sexist past. The airlines for a very long time sold tickets based on defining air travel in a sexual way and oftentimes flight attendants were the object of that.”
Flight attendants described the verbal harassment as “nasty,” “dirty” and “unwanted.” They said passengers would proposition them, tell their sexual fantasies, and request pornographic videos and pictures.
The survey says this harassment occurred “despite the prevalence of abuse and the emergence of the #MeToo movement” which seeks to bring an end to sexual harassment and assault.
“I used to get cornered in the back galley and asked what my hottest layover was,” said Nelson. “When I started flying I used to get asked if I was a member of the mile high club. That was a common quip from a passenger.”
Eighteen percent of the survey respondents said they experienced physical sexual harassment within the last year, and of that group, 40% said it happened three or more times.
They described being “groped,” “grabbed” and “slapped,” above and below their uniforms. Some of them said they were followed, cornered or lunged at, and hugged, kissed or “humped.”
Nelson said that harassment also interferes with the attendants’ role as first responders since “we can’t do that as victims ourselves.”
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SOURCE: CNN, Aaron Smith