A 16-year-old girl is claiming she was groped on a United Airlines flight and the staff did nothing about it.
The unnamed teen was traveling solo from Seattle, Washington, to Newark, New Jersey, after being accepted to a notable young women’s leadership academy at Princeton, CBS News reports.
She recalled the traumatic incident in an interview with CBS.
"I knew what was going on but like, I just thought I was dreaming or something, like, this cannot really be happening," she said.
She was asleep during the red-eye flight when she woke up to the stranger touching her inappropriately.
"I could feel his hand on my thigh, and one of his hands had like, came between my legs and he was rubbing in between my legs and then he tried to put his other hand underneath my pants and I kind of woke up and was like 'What are you doing?'" she said.
When she reported the ordeal to a flight attendant, she was moved to a different seat some rows up, but no other action was taken.
"I just felt like he could see me. Like he could see wherever I was sitting," she said. "There was just still so much time, like, I couldn't just leave the plane. I didn't have anyone. I didn't feel like there was anyone on the plane that could protect me."
When the plane landed, the girl said everyone just exited normally, including the passenger who assaulted her.
"I literally thought I was going to die," the teen's mother said. "I'm 3,000 miles away. My child says she's been sexually assaulted and I'm asking her questions and she's like, disoriented, I'm like, 'Where is he? Do you see him?' And she said, 'He just walked by me.' And I said, 'Get the police! Get United!"'
When the girl’s mother eventually reached a United terminal supervisor over the phone, she said she was told that flight staff broke the airline's own rules.
“The supervisor told me that United did not follow their own protocols," the girl's mother recalled. "She said, 'You are the first person telling me of your daughter's assault. I don't even have a manifest, I don't have a report. I don't even know who he is or where he is.’"
Eventually, authorities did locate and arrest a passenger believed to be the assailant. He was identified as Vijakumar Krishnappa, a visiting doctor on a fellowship. He has been charged with one count of abusive sexual contact on an airplane; however, he is currently out on bail.
His attorney reportedly maintains that Krishnappa, “adamantly denies the charges and deserves to be considered an innocent man."
The attorney for the victim’s family, Marc Lamber, said he believes the airline is also at fault.
“The FBI wasn't waiting when the plane landed so the perpetrator, the man who engaged in sexual assault, walked off the plane with a free pass,” Lamber said.
If he’s convicted, Krishnappa could face two years in prison and a $250,000 fine along with possible deportation.
As for the teen, she’s struggling to grapple with being violated.
“He had no right to touch me. He had no right. I guess I would say he took my peace of mind," the girl said. "I don't feel safe.”
Unfortunately, this teen is just one of many women who have endured the same or similar experiences while flying. We can only hope this perverse man faces consequences for his actions.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)