Monday, March 28, 2011

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How to Tolerate the TSA As a Sex Crime Victim

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

In our modern society, certain security features are needed to make things safer for everyone. One of these features in the United States is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), best known for conducting searches in US airports.
Unfortunately, these searches have become more and more invasive in attempt to catch persons who attempt to bypass the security protocols. While understandable from a security perspective, the search methods used can be very difficult to endure for people who have experienced traumatic incidents in their lives, particularly where those incidents were of a sexual nature. Enduring the search for the greater good of societal safety must be balanced with the need to protect your sensitivity to the search methods, and this article aims to help you tolerate the procedure better.


  1. Prepare yourself for the security check. Be aware that most security checks involve X-raying all of your baggage and taking the flier walk through a metal detector. Occasionally, people are randomly selected for a more thorough check. This will usually involve a full-body scan, strip search, handwanding, or using an advanced chemical analysis system that can detect traces of explosives.
  2. Recognize that searches are reasonable and benign and that your thinking can determine a positive outcome for you. When you go into the search, be aware that a strip-search is possible. Instead of panicking, use your strength of mind to tell yourself that nothing bad will occur. TSA staff are highly trained professionals who take their jobs very seriously. When they conduct a search, they do not wish to hurt or harm you. They just want to ensure that you aren't carrying anything dangerous onto the plane. However, be aware that a strip search is VERY unlikely.
  3. Prepare everything you will need to get through security. Look up the TSA's guides for what you can and cannot carry through a security checkpoint.[1] Be sure to comply with this, as failure to do so could get you selected for additional screening. Have your identification material[2] and boarding pass ready. This will help make your processing through the security station easier.
  4. Pass through the initial security screening. Be polite and courteous. Be Patient, as this process can be the most time-consuming thing you will do at the airport. Maintain your best manners and be very cooperative, even if you are pulled aside for additional screening. This will show that you are trying to be courteous and helpful, and will likely win back a similar attitude from the TSA staff.
  5. Fear not to explain your situation. If you are pulled aside for additional screening, do not be afraid to explain your situation to the TSA official; the officials have no way of knowing unless you speak up.[3] Just be sure to do so in a courteous manner. They may be able to arrange for an alternative screening process that will help you feel more at ease. If they cannot do so, be prepared for the extra screening. Know that the TSA official has a job to do, which is to keep you safe. They are not making you strip down in order to harm you, they just want to make sure that you are safe.
    • Before the beginning of a pat-down you can request a private area for a personal search at any time during the screening process.[4] In the unlikely event of a strip search, you will be offered a disposable paper drape for additional privacy.
    • You can have a companion, assistant, or family member accompany you and assist you during a private or public screening. After providing this assistance, the companion, assistant, or family member will need to be rescreened.[5]
  6. Understand that the process will not harm you. People are often worried that a full body scanner will take a picture that might get out. The TSA's official position is that full body scanners do not show the image for more than a few seconds, and there is no way to save it. While extremely unlikely, leaked images may be a real risk, as there are many examples of leaked scanner images.[6] You can take comfort in the fact that a strip-search or frisking is not designed to injure you in any way, psychologically or physically. Try to keep repeating this, as it will help you understand that when you face the security checkpoint.
  7. Be prepared for physical contact. During some searches the TSA staff will give you a pat-down to ensure you do not have anything harmful. Be prepared for this, and once again, recognize that it is not a harmful act. This is done because the TSA staff cares about your safety. Do not look at it as a threat, but as a way of taking care of you.
    • You have the right to ask a security officer to change her or his gloves during the physical inspection of your accessible property, before performing a physical search (pat-down,) or any time a security officer handles your footwear.[7]
  8. Do something pleasant afterward. Go and have a favorite drink with those traveling with you, buy a treat or something read, and spend some time just breathing deeply and keeping yourself calm. It may have felt intrusive and even upsetting but carrying the sense of disturbance with you will increase your upset and it is better to center yourself and find some calm.


  • Always be prepared and courteous when passing through airport security. This will help you especially if you have special needs.
  • The most important thing you have is your mind. Use it to tell yourself that security is not a bad thing. This will help you work through your anxieties and prevent a TSA search from being an overly traumatic experience.
  • If you begin to feel extremely uncomfortable, let the TSA staff know. You may have to explain your situation. The TSA tries to be as accommodating as possible, and should be able to provide you with an alternative search that isn't as invasive. Explaining may at least help to make it clear why you are behaving especially nervous, agitated, or irritable.
  • Always be compliant with the TSA staff. A non-compliant or unruly individual raises red-flags and will likely be denied access.


  • Do not try anything illegal. This includes trying to sneak past security. Attempting something like this will only land you in more trouble with more invasive searches.
  • Although the fourth amendment protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure, airport security is reasonable. You do have the legal right to refuse any searches, but in doing so TSA will likely not permit you access through the security checkpoint, thereby denying you access to air travel.

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Sources and Citations

  1. For example, see Liquid Rules: 3-1-1 for Carry-Ons, and Prohibited Items,
  2. Suitable identification is listed at:
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