Right now, we are entering one of the busiest travel times of the year. Thanksgiving is two days away and millions are expected to take to the skies in the coming hours. But new TSA screening rules don't make travel a holiday for some people.
A group is speaking out, worried that new pat-down procedures could bring up some bad memories for victims of sexual assault.
According to statistics from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men in Texas is a survivor of a sexual assault. TAASA says it has had a firestorm of calls and e-mails from people saying the new security rules go way too far and run the risk of bringing up terrifying memories.
"The reason you are seeing this uproar is people do feel like it is an invasion of their privacy," said Psychologist Dr. David Sabine. For survivors of sexual assault, the process can be more than just an embarrassment. "Being pat down, particularly if you are not ready for it or unprepared for it can take a sexual assault victim back to the moment of the original sexual victimization... feeling like they don't have control and they are helpless are the feelings they felt years ago and now they are feeling them all over again," said Torie Camp, Deputy Director of TAAS. Camp says her phones at TAASA have been ringing off the hook from people who feel violated by the new procedures.
Sabine understands the worry. "Definitely this is one issue that is a concern for people that have been through sexual trauma or have been a victim of sexual violence of some form to be touched by a stranger, to be approached by a stranger even if you know that person is well-meaning and their intent is benign never the less, the experience is traumatic for them, too," he said.
Sabine is worried the process might make some people feel like they should avoid flying. He says security and respect need to find a balance. "As a culture, we have to figure out where our lines are going to be drawn and I think that we are going to have to understand that our government cannot ensure our safety in every regard they cant make everything 100% safe without making things intolerable in these ways that we are seeing people respond to now," said Sabine. Camp also seeks a middle-ground. "I know there has got to be something else to allow us to travel safely but to also not victimize individuals that are going through the security lines," she said.
Sabine says that preparing for the idea of facing a pat-down is the best advice he can offer for a sexual assault survivor worried about the screening.
Many have critiqued the TSA for not properly warning travelers about the new measures. TSA Spokesperson Luis Casanova said "We value the rights of the people we interact with, all the traveling public, but that must be balanced with the security and the safety of the traveling public itself."
There is confidential help for sexual assault survivors available 24 hours a day via a toll free phone number 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). TAASA also has resources on their web site.
Dr. David Sabine is the author of the forthcoming book, A Chair With a View, a reflection of the impact the personal stories of clients has had on him over his career.