Kidnapping and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart says she was sexually assaulted during a flight last year.
Smart said the assault happened while she was sleeping. A man, who was not identified, was rubbing her inner thigh with his hand on the July Delta flight between Philadelphia and Atlanta, The Associated Press reported.
“I was shocked. I mean the last time someone touched me without my say so was when I was kidnapped. and I froze. I didn’t know what to do,” Smart told CBS News.
Smart spoke out about the alleged assault during an interview with “CBS News This Morning.”
She reported what happened to authorities.
Smart’s spokesman Chris Thomas said the FBI and Delta are investigating the incident.
The FBI did not confirm or deny an investigation into Smart’s allegations.
Delta spokesman Anthony Black confirmed the company’s investigation, the AP reported.
In a statement emailed to AP, Black said, “Following her flight, Elizabeth Smart contacted Delta and shared that another passenger had acted inappropriately towards her.”
The statement continued, “We took the matter seriously and have continued to cooperate with Ms. Smart and the appropriate authorities as the matter is investigated. Delta does not tolerate passenger misconduct towards other customers or Delta employees.”
Smart says she doesn’t blame Delta for the assault.
“It’s not Delta’s fault. I mean it was this man. This man made a decision. But I wanted Delta to know ... And they were very, you know, they were appalled ... they offered to help as much as they could to back me up as far as I wanted to take this,” Smart told CBS News.
Smart was kidnapped in 2002 and held captive for nine months. She was also repeatedly sexually assaulted during the time she was missing. She was rescued in 2003, The Washington Post reported. She was only 14 years old at the time of the kidnapping, CBS News reported. She is now 32 and the mother of three children, the AP reported.
Her captors Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee were both convicted for her kidnapping.
Mitchell received a life sentence. Barzee served 15 years in prison and was released in 2018, the Post reported.
Since the flight incident, Smart has started training in self-defense and started a program, called Smart Defense, to help women and girls stay safe, the AP reported.
The Washington Post reported that incidents of assault on airplanes are being reported more often, according to the FBI and the assaults follow a pattern. The FBI said a predatory person, usually male, touches a woman or minor while the victim is sleeping in either the middle or window seats. The victim will tell authorities they woke up with the accused’s hand beneath their clothing, the Post reported.
In 2014 there were 38 reported cases, in 2017 it jumped to 63 but that only accounts for cases reported to the FBI. It doesn’t have any data for assaults reported to other authorities, according to the Post.
© 2020 Cox Media Group