How to Protect Yourself From Sexual Assault on a Plane

Allison Dvaladze said she was on a flight from Seattle to Amsterdam in April when she was sexually assaulted.

Ms. Dvaladze, 42, a public health director for a global breast cancer initiative, has since started a Facebook page, “Protect Airline Passengers from Sexual Assault.”

Here is some advice that she and others have offered to help minimize the risk of being sexually assaulted on an aircraft, and on what to do if it occurs.

STAY ALERT

People are more at risk if they have been drinking or take sleeping pills or other drugs.

Some sexual offenders “will inebriate their victims so they become more vulnerable,” said Elizabeth L. Jeglic, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, whose research includes prevention of sexual violence.

BE ASSERTIVE

Sexual offenders sometimes target people they think won’t report the crime.

“If people are encroaching on your space, ask them to stay on their side,” Dr. Jeglic said.

SPEAK UP

If a person is making you uncomfortable, or if you see something suspicious around you involving other passengers who might be victimized, talk to a flight attendant, said Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union.

MINIMIZE YOUR RISK

Book an aisle seat, and consider putting your seatbelt on top of your blanket, Ms. Dvaladze said.

Many airlines try to seat unaccompanied minors where the seats on either side are empty.

IF IT HAPPENS

If you feel you’ve been assaulted, Ms. Dvaladze advises:

—Be loud about saying “No,” so others around you hear.

—Get up immediately and report it to the crew.

—Ask the crew to notify the pilot and request that law enforcement be waiting for the plane when it lands.

—Ask the flight attendant to record the name of the alleged offender, since people don’t always sit in the seat assigned to them.

—Insist that either you or the offender be moved and refuse to sit next to that person again, even upon landing.

—Don’t assume it can’t happen to you.

“We know that sexual violence happens to people of all ages, all walks of life,” said Laura Palumbo, the communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “It’s not what a person is wearing, the way that someone expresses themselves: It’s just that unfortunately there are people whose attitudes and behaviors are predatory.”