Veerabhadrarao Kunam has been accused of “sexually touching” a woman while she was sleeping on a Virgin America flight from Los Angeles, California to Newark, New Jersey.
Kunam, 58, was arrested on Saturday and taken into FBI custody immediately after his flight landed in Newark. He faces one charge of abusive sexual contact after a female passenger reported him for inappropriately touching her while she was asleep.
According to Newark Patch, prosecutors allege that in mid-flight, the woman seated next to Kunam woke to find him “massaging her genitals and rubbing his bare feet against her bare feet.”
The woman alerted the male she was traveling with who then confronted Kunam.
Kunam reportedly offered to buy the woman and her travel companion a drink as an apology, which they rightfully refused.
Instead, they informed the flight crew of the incident and one of the staff members responded by moving Kunam to another seat and monitoring him to make sure he did not move.
Since the arrest, Kunam reportedly appeared in federal court on Monday and was released on a $50,000 secured bond.
A spokesperson for Virgin America offered a statement confirming its employees actions after being alerted to the situation.
“Crew on board Virgin America Flight 170 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Newark International Airport (EWR), which departed on July 30, were alerted to reports of a disruptive individual who was accused of inappropriately touching a fellow passenger. Our crew are trained for such situations, and they immediately moved the individual in question to another seat, monitored him to ensure he did not move from his seat, and alerted law enforcement, who were waiting for the aircraft when it arrived at EWR.”
Kunam’s blatant violation of the woman’s body and personal space is deplorable on all levels. Furthermore, the fact that he thought buying her a drink as a form of “apology” would smooth things over is a total slap in the face.
The prevalence of rape culture in our society has made it so that no everyday activity or errand is safe for women. What’s worse is that the maximum punishment for the charge against Kunam is two years in prison and a $250,000 fine, which hardly amounts to the long-term suffering he undoubtedly caused his victim.
It is likely she will forever fear closing her eyes on an airplane again, or even dread sitting next to a male stranger under any circumstance.
According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime — which indicates, unfortunately, that society is crawling with predators like Kunam.
Banner Photo Credit: Flickr user Josh Hallett