I'm scheduled to fly with my husband from Atlanta to Newark tomorrow and I don't mind telling you that flying is not my favorite mode of travel. There's always some element of anxiety about it for me. In fact 10-plus years ago, when I was still in early stages of my own recovery from sexual abuse I was scheduled for the same trip but never did actually set foot on the plane. I was too scared. I got as far as the threshold of the plane and couldn't step forward; ' turned around and headed straight to the escalator. And then I spent most of the day at the airport in a state of hyper-anxiety, waiting for my luggage to return from its journey. Can you believe it? Well, it's true and I'm exceedingly grateful to be far beyond that now, but I certainly can empathize with those who have their own anxieties.
Lots of people are stressed out by different aspects of air travel,and for many reasons. Some are anxious until they get to the airport on time; others not until they get on the plane; for sexual assault survivors the airport security screening process typically stirs up lots of anxiety. The other day, while cleaning out my filing cabinet I came across a print-out of a wonderful page on RAINN's (Rape and Incest National Network)website (www.rainn.org) and I want to share verbatim the key points with you:
According to RAINN the Transportation Security Administration has established a hotline (1-855-787-2227) and published a guide to dealing with the risk factor of pat-downs and other security techniques. Here are some steps the TSA recommends once you are at the airport:
At the beginning of the screening:
* Let the staffer know if there is any reaction that could happen when touched or patted down in a sensitive area.
* You can provide both kinds of information verbally or through a TSA notification card.
* Note that these disclosures do not exempt you from being screened< but serve to help the staffer understand your needs.
During the screening process:
* When requested, a security pat-down can be performed by a TSA officer of the same gender.
* Any traveler can request a private screening, and may be accompanied by a companion of his or her choice.
* Travelers will not be asked to remove or lift any article of clothing.
* Travelers 75 and younger may also leave their clothes on.
* Certain metal body piercings may set off the metal detector, which will result in additional screening.
* You may be asked to remove body piercings in private as an alternative to a pat-down search.
*As part of explosive trace detection screening, TSA officers may swab your hands.
For further advice and suggestions the TSA's toll-free helpline, 1-855-787-2227 is available from 8am to11pm ET Monday through Friday, and 9am to 8pm weekends and holidays. Passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing may use Federal Relay 711.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence help is available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online at www.rain.org.