How do you feel about letting your teen fly alone as an unaccompanied minor? This story may make you a whole lot more nervous. An off-duty pilot allegedly groped a 14-year-old girl who was sleeping next to him on a flight. It's horrifying enough when someone does this to a grown woman, but a young teenager? And it was a pilot, too! Ugh.
According to the victim, who was flying alone, Michael James Pascal was seated next to her on a flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City. She chatted with Pascal briefly about her foot injury (she had crutches with her) before pulling her feet up on her seat and pulling the arm rest down because he was already making her feel uncomfortable. She awoke when she felt Pascal's hand on her bottom, tucked underneath to the point where his fingers were touching her inner thigh. The arm rest had been pulled back up and she could feel some of his weight against her.
Such a horrifying incident could have paralyzed a girl with shock and fear. But not this girl -- she elbowed him off and said, "What the hell are you doing?" "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she says Pascal said, "I was asleep!" But she says he was awake with his eyes wide open when she caught him. He then claimed he had to go to the bathroom and left. The girl hit the call button and told a flight attendant what had just happened, and she was seated at the back of the plane.
So there you go, that's a thing that could happen to your teenage daughter -- or your son -- if they fly solo. So how does that make you feel about letting your kids fly as an unaccompanied minor? Speaking for myself, it definitely makes me nervous. But consider everything that went right in this scenario.
The girl stood up for herself and got help. The flight attendants took her story seriously and seated her somewhere else. The alleged perp was arrested and faces a felony complaint.
The older our kids get, the more independence we need to allow them. And that's scary. But someone must have taught this girl what to do if she's violated -- or at the very least, someone taught her to stand up for herself.
Even knowing that this can happen to a kid on a flight, I would still allow my son to fly solo. But I would prepare him first. We could go over a few potential scenarios and how to handle them. I think the idea that someone could do something to him might creep him out, but at least he can process that and be prepared to handle it, instead of being creeped out and not know what to do when and if it happens. Crappy things happen to kids sometimes, and the best thing we can do is prepare our kids to deal with them, not keep endlessly protecting them.
Does this story make you less likely to allow your kids to fly solo?
Image via Richard North/Flickr