Women Passengers and Crew Unite to Protect Teen Girl From Jetliner 'Creep'

Women united on plane to safeguard teen being harassed.
A tweet about sexual harassment on a plane exploded on social media. iStock

A Canadian journalist's tweets about a male airline passenger making passes at a teenage girl separated from her parents has ignited a social media fury.

The Star Vancouver bureau chief Joanna Chiu was on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver when she overheard a man trying to chat up a teenager, she wrote. 

"Thread about airplane creeps: I'm on a plane from at a late-evening stopover ... and was very tired and had a row to myself to sleep but couldn't avoid noticing what was going on in the row behind me," she posted to Twitter Monday.

A man who appeared to be in his mid-30s was questioning a girl who had just sat down next to him, Chiu wrote. "He started off by asking about her career plans and laughed when she said she wanted to be CEO and kept giving her ridiculous advice," she posted.

The man seemed to take the girl's friendly response as "a welcome cue to get very familiar and teasing her kept saying that he wanted to take her out to eat, which she was ignoring. At this point, I had to stay awake in case anything went further than that," she said. 

According to Chiu, things did. The man asked for a "dirty" photo of the girl and that is when Chiu said she "turned around and rage-whispered exactly what I thought of that," she said. The man said not a word, just rose and went to the lavatory, she said.

And that's when a woman sitting behind the man let the girl know she had been listening, too, and was available to help, Chiu said. The journalist took advantage of the man's absence to go get a flight attendant.

The crew checked with other witnesses and told the man he would have to move, she said. "He resisted then started swearing at me" and demanded to see a boss. The head flight attendant informed him "I'm the boss." He eventually moved, and the attendants wrote a report over the incident, Chiu said.

She publicly thanked them for helping. As passengers deplaned, Chiu said the man was being questioned by security.

She did not name the carrier "because journalists have to be careful not to make endorsements, but just want to say this Canadian airline handled the situation so well."

The tweets were viewed thousands of times, and streams of reactions flowed in, including suggestions of what bystanders should do when they observe harassment on public transportation. Among them:

Ask the female, "Are they bothering you?"

Take a photo with your phone.

Go stand next to the woman so she knows she is not alone.

Inform a staff member.

Act like you know the woman and say "I've been looking everywhere for you — we have to hurry to catch our other friends."

Drop something to create a diversion.

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