'Creep' harasses teen during flight; Canadian journalist intervenes

Star Vancouver's bureau chief Joanna Chiu took to social media recently to detail her experience of witnessing a man sexually harassing a teen during their flight.
Star Vancouver's bureau chief Joanna Chiu took to social media recently to detail her experience of witnessing a man sexually harassing a teen during their flight.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Ms Joanna Chiu, the bureau chief of the Star Vancouver, took to social media recently to detail her experience of witnessing a man sexually harassing a teen during their flight.

Ms Chiu took to Twitter, where she made a thread about "airplane creeps" on Monday (March 25). She was on the plane then while the man and the teen sat in the row behind her.

"A man appearing to be in his late thirties was obviously delighted to be seated next to a teenager separated from the rest of her family," Ms Chiu wrote.

The man began by asking the girl about her career plans, according to Ms Chiu. When the teen said she wanted to be a chief executive officer, the man laughed and kept giving her ridiculous advice.

"She was friendly and he seemed to take that as a welcome cue to get very familiar," she wrote. "(He) started teasing her and kept saying that he wanted to take her out to eat, which she was ignoring."

At that point, Ms Chiu decided to stay awake just in case things went further. It did.

"As soon as he asked for a 'dirty' photo while leaning close to her, I turned around and rage-whispered exactly what I thought of that."

The man did not respond and instead went to the washroom. While he was gone, Ms Chiu called the attention of a flight attendant to tell her what was going on. Another woman sitting behind the teen also said she had the right to change seats if she wanted and offered her support should she need help.

The flight attendant asked the man to change seats upon his return, which prompted him to swear at Ms Chiu.

"He resisted then started swearing at me and asked to talk to the boss and the head flight attendant said, 'I'm the boss, this is really serious and we could land the plane,'" Ms Chiu said.

The man eventually moved and the flight attendants checked on the teen and wrote a report.

"Just walked off the plane and security was ready to pull him aside to talk to him and he looked like he was sweating bullets," she tweeted again.

Ms Chiu refrained from mentioning the airline's name, but praised the Canadian crew for the way they handled the situation. She also said she got the man's name and his employer and will be "sending a private note to them".

What seems to be the elephant in the room, however, was how none of the male passengers seemed to have noticed what was going on, noted Ms Chiu.

"Maybe fellow women are more likely to pick up on warning signs early on in the conversation because we used to be teenage girls too?" she wondered.

In the end, she gave a list of tips and examples via the Stop Street Harassment organisation on how people can help stop harassment. The tips were suggested by social sciences professor Brian Martin of the University of Wollongong in Australia.

"If it looks like a man is bothering a woman, ask her, 'Is someone bothering you?' That question alone may deter a harasser who believes no one will intervene," it said.

Prof Martin also suggested calling the harasser out and seeking assistance from the authorities and other people nearby. Giving supportive words to someone who has just been sexually harassed was also recommended.

Sexual assaults on commercial flights are on the rise, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation report in 2018, covering the period between 2014 and 2017. Around 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported in 2014 alone, which increased to 63 cases in 2017. Sexual assault aboard an aircraft is considered a felony and can land offenders in prison.