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Yes, It Is Illegal to Grope Sleeping Minors on Airplanes

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 29, 2016 3:57 PM

Just in case you needed a reminder about how to act on an airplane, here are a few: wear deodorant; keep your shoes on; don't lean your seat back; and, for God's sake, do not grope and kiss an unaccompanied minor who has fallen asleep in the seat next to you. And in case you require further edification, that last one is not mere etiquette. Your nonconsensual sexual advances are assault, possibly rape, and they will get you arrested and jailed.

Keep your elbows in, keep your carry-on stowed, and keep your hands to yourself.

Pre-Flight Check Yourself

Jesse Salas probably had a few adult beverages before boarding an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland to Anchorage (witnesses said Salas bumped into passengers as they exited the plane and a police officer who spoke to him at the gate said he appeared intoxicated). But that is absolutely no excuse for his behavior. Salas, 23, was seated next to a 16-year-old girl and the Alaska Dispatch News reported what happened about an hour into the flight:

In an interview on the plane with police, the girl told an officer she felt someone grab her right thigh while her eyes were closed. She pushed the hand away, thinking it may have been a mistake, but was once again interrupted from her rest, she said.

Salas, according to the girl, kissed her on the mouth, using his tongue. She told police she felt violated and disgusted because Salas smelled and tasted like "stale beer," the report says.

She pushed Salas away and forcefully declined his advances but Salas continued to try and grab her thigh about five times, the police report says.

Another passenger finally intervened, the crew separated Salas and the girl, and the flight was diverted to Seattle to facilitate Salas's arrest on fourth degree assault charges.

Twice Too Many

Perhaps most disheartening is that this wasn't even the only minor-groping incident on a flight this week. Chad Cameron Camp was arrested after groping a 13-year-old on a near-empty American Airlines flight from Dallas to Portland just days before. The alleged assault went on for 30 minutes before a flight attendant saw Camp's hand near the girl's crotch and a tear streaming down her face. Camp was charged with abusive sexual contact.

While one could look at these incidents as an opportunity to panic about putting unaccompanied minors on a plane, it's also a chance to condemn the kind of culture that sees young women as little more than opportunities for sexual gratification, whether they agree or not. It's terrible to consider that some men need to be reminded not to put their hands on women without consent, but here we are, and here's your reminder.

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