Crawford Co-Sponsors Bill for FBI to Track Sexual Assault on Planes, Ships

Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-1) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) introduced H.R. 5256, a bill that would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to collect statistics related to sexual assaults on any mode of transportation under federal jurisdiction, including airplanes and ships. These crimes go largely unnoticed by the public because they are committed discreetly, and many victims are fearful to report the misconduct to authorities. The bill language is attached.

In a recent survey of 2,000 flight attendants, 1/5 had received a report of passenger on passenger sexual assault, and Bureau of Justice statistics indicate that 75% of the incidents go unreported. There is currently no centralized system for collecting sexual assault reports from the airlines, and no special training for flight attendants in handling sexual assault. On cruise ships, sex-crimes outweigh any other major offense on board, and a 2013 congressional report found that minors were victims in 1/3 of the reported sexual assaults.

Upon the bill’s introduction, Crawford released the following statement:

People traveling for work or vacation should never have to be concerned about being sexually assaulted. The conditions of cramped spaces, alcohol and drugs, and dark cabins can often embolden sexual offenders, and requiring the FBI to collect these important statistics will help bring these horrible, abusive acts to an end.  If we’re able to get better information about the unique nature of these sexual assaults, that will raise awareness and go a long way in helping combat their prevalence.”

Norton released the following statement:

The statistics we already have on sexual assaults on airplanes point to the need for real-time statistics and documentation on all primary modes of travel. Otherwise, we cannot gather either the necessary information to prosecute these crimes or the insights to help eliminate sexual assault and improve investigations on all modes of transportation. Travelers are often alone and at their most vulnerable. The statistics our bill would provide would be useful to the transportation industry itself, which must also assume responsibility to do more to eliminate sexual assault.”


The FBI already collects data on violent crimes – murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The agency even separates it by location, whether it is by city, county, metropolitan area, or even university/college. Crimes committed on airplanes and oceangoing vessels fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI, and the agency already collects statistics for violent crime and breaks it down by location, even within airplane terminals. It is logical to collect statistics for sexual assaults that occur in other places that can be overlooked, like on airplanes and ships themselves.

Press Release – James Arnold

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