Woman searched at airport when feminine hygiene product alerts scanner

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte woman told Channel 9 she was headed home from a work conference in Tampa Bay, but was stopped after going through a Transportation Safety Administration body scanner.

She said she was told by TSA agents at the airport in Tampa Bay that she needed to be searched again after part of her body lit up on the scanner's screen, the exact spot where she was wearing a typical feminine hygiene product.

"The ladies were like, ‘We're going to have to search your vaginal area and buttocks,’ and ‘I'm like, ‘That makes no sense to me. You can clearly tell that that's a feminine product."

She refused the search and argued with TSA agents for about 20 minutes.

“(They said) ‘Ma'am, this is just standard procedure we have to do this. If you don't allow us to do this, you will not be boarding your flight,’" she said. "I'm crying the entire time because to me, this is very personal for you to search me in those areas, and I don't feel comfortable. They called in the police and everyone's standing there looking."

Eventually, she agreed to the search in a private room.

They went up my leg, down my leg, in the front, then up my leg and down my leg in the back with my arms up. The entire time I'm crying," she said. "I felt like a criminal. She's patting me down and they're holding my hands up and they're going on my waistline."

When agents found nothing, they let her go.

Three days later, she's still confused, devastated and wants other women to know what happened.

"That's a real issue not just for myself, but for other women like that's so embarrassing to have to be stopped and searched like that," she said.

TSA Statement:

"We take reports of alleged impropriety very seriously and regret any distress the security screening process may have caused the passenger. TSA conducted a thorough review of the passenger's screening and concluded that all security protocols were followed as our officers worked to resolve an alarm. TSA officers must work to resolve all alarms at the checkpoint to ensure everyone arrives safely at their destination. However, incidents such as the one described are extremely rare and women should not be concerned about going through the security checkpoint."

Background provided by TSA:

"The advanced imaging technology scanner at the checkpoint helps TSA identify concealed metallic and nonmetallic items between the skin and clothing using millimeter-wave technology. So if an individual were to try to conceal something in the area of the groin, the machine would detect it. It is not out of the question that the machine could detect something placed inside an individual's underwear."

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