Airport pat-downs can be traumatic for sex-abuse survivors

    The Transportation Security Administration airport pat-downs can make anyone uncomfortable. Several organizations believe the process can be even more terrifying for a victim of abuse.

    Resources: Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape Women Organized Against Rape

    Once someone has been violated sexually, experts said recovery can be a long, hard road. Touching by a stranger during a security pat-down can cause a distressing emotional reaction.

    Delilah Rumburg of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape said the group has received many calls from sex-abuse survivors who experience trembling or anxiety thinking about the screening. Some even cancel flights.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    “You would have a reaction that almost feels as if it was happening all over again,” she said. “So I think that’s the thing that is most frightening to someone, they’re afraid they will go back and have those same feelings of stress, confusion or panic even.”

    She encourages survivors of abuse who feel unsure to contact a local crisis center before flying to better prepare for security.

    Rumburg said even same-sex pat-downs can be distressing.

    “Will a man say ‘I’d rather have women do the pat-down because I was sexually abused as a child by another man,’ ” she said. “No. So that just adds to the stress of the experience. Most people aren’t comfortable disclosing that they’re sexual assault survivors.”

    Rumburg said the TSA has been receptive to the group’s concerns.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal