Time to track sexual assaults in the skies?

A bill introduced by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to keep track of sexual assaults that are committed on airplanes.

Norton said in-flight sexual assaults are often not investigated properly because the jurisdiction is often murky over what happens when airplanes are in the sky.

She said her measure, which has been dubbed the Protecting Airline Passengers from Sexual Assaults Act, would help close the loopholes.

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"Sexual assaults on airplanes are criminal acts that elude police and prosecutors more than many other crimes due to a number of factors, including fear on the part of the survivor, lack of witnesses, and a lack of education on how to respond to such acts," Norton said in a speech about the bill on the House floor Tuesday.

"We need to know where the source of the surge is," Norton continued. "This data is also very important because the public deserves to know that such incidents have happened.”

Norton said sexual assaults on commercial flights were particularly galling because passengers expect airplanes to be secure after going through airport security checkpoints.

"Oftentimes, the survivors of these crimes were asleep during part of the assault, but were so afraid and shocked that they did not call for help," she said. "In these cases, the dynamics of surviving a sexual assault are amplified. 

"In order for the FAA and law enforcement to better gauge the extent of these horrendous crimes that have taken place on aircraft and to work towards prevention, data on the number of sexual assaults needs to be collected and shared with the public."