In light of newly enforced airport screening methods by the Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA), the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has compiled information concerning how this may affect sexual assault survivors, family and friends of survivors, and others who have experienced interpersonal violence. These screenings include invasive procedures that may cause survivors of traumatic events such as sexual violence to be re-traumatized. Additionally, we believe these new screening procedures violate an individual’s rights to feelings of personal safety, dignity, and privacy. We are working to end the use of these invasive practices. Read our Press Release.
The American Civil Liberties Union has created a guide to procedures and technologies you may encounter in your travels.
You have the right to:
- To opt out of scanner. If you opt out, you will be subject to a “standard pat-down.”
- Let TSA know about sensitive areas and agents should be careful when touching your body.
- Ask to be patted down in private location.
- Have a witness present during pat down.
- Determine if the airport you plan to travel into/out of utilizes the new security methods.
- If you are concerned about the new methods and how they may affect you, consider meeting with a therapist or other trusted friend/family member prior to traveling to discuss techniques to prepare and soothe yourself while in the security line, during the screening, and afterward.
- Contact members of your support system and ask for their support/encouragement while you travel.
- While we don’t feel that you should have to disclose information about your experiences with sexual violence if you don’t want to, some resources have been created to help survivors communicate their needs with TSA agents in a more private manner. See Quick Info Cards for Sexual Assault Survivors.
- If you elect or are required to have the enhanced pat-down performed, request that TSA employees inform you of the procedure and what exactly they will do before they perform each step in the pat-down. For example, “I am now required to pat-down your breast area.”
- Travelers can request to have the pat-down procedure done in a private area with another member of the TSA staff, or if possible, a travel companion, as a witness. This may be helpful for some, but not all, survivors.
- If you are traveling with a minor or loved one and are concerned about her/his reaction to the pat-down procedure, request to be present during the procedure.
- If you feel your rights have been violated, file a complaint directly with TSA. Print a copy for your records.
- You can also file a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
- Additionally, EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed a lawsuit to suspend the deployment of body scanners at US airports, pending an independent review. Read more.
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Resources for post-traumatic stress disorder: