EMU student Tia Jackson was flying back to Detroit on Tuesday, Jan. 21 when, she said, the man beside her sexually assaulted her.
Jackson, a biology major at EMU, said that while she was sleeping on the Spirit Airlines flight, she felt the man next to her touch her side. He then reportedly placed his hand down the back of her pants, touching her thigh and buttocks.
After calling for assistance from the flight attendants, Jackson asked for the man to be moved to a different seat. The flight attendants instead requested that she be the one to move seats, though that would have separated her from her friend, Jackson said.
Spirit Airlines released a statement, stating that Jackson had received immediate attention after pressing the call button, 18 minutes before the plane landed.
“Once she told the flight attendant who came to her seat, the flight attendant directed her to a different seat. The cabin crew wanted to move her, as opposed to him, because the move would have left him with an empty seat on one side and an aisle on the other,” a Spirit Airlines spokesperson said.
Jackson disagreed with the statement, telling The Washington Post, “Somebody just told you [Spirit Airlines] a crime was committed, why would you move the victim? You need to move the man that did what he did. Why would I leave my friend there alone?”
Jackson also told The Washington Post that she had experienced sexual assault in high school, saying that while on the flight she “had that feeling all over again.”
Although law enforcement was not at the scene when the plane landed, a Spirit Airlines spokesperson said that it was one of their team members who notified law enforcement and that they are cooperating in the investigation. Detroit Metro Airport authorities reported the incident to the FBI, which is now handling the case.
“People don’t understand that you can be affected mentally more than you can be physically.” Jackson said.
Jackson was unable to comment as of press time. Follow the online version of this article for updates.