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Woman Says American Airlines Failed to Protect Her From Sexual Predator Who Harassed and Assaulted Her On Flight to Chicago

Woman Says American Airlines Failed to Protect Her From Sexual Predator Who Harassed and Assaulted Her On Flight to Chicago

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A woman is suing American Airlines over allegations that its flight attendants failed to protect her from a sexual predator who repeatedly harassed and assaulted her during a two-hour flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Chicago O’Hare last October.

Gretchen Stelter has gone public with her story and has a lawsuit pending in an Illinois district court, alleging that at least two flight attendants witnessed the perpetrator’s behavior but didn’t intervene to help her.

The 42-year-old book editor had been traveling home from holiday with her girlfriends in Mexico with a connection in DFW and had booked a First Class ticket in the hope of making some progress on a manuscript she was currently working on.

Rather than being able to focus on work, however, Gretchen says she was forced to make small talk with her seatmate, whose behavior progressively got worse and more sexual as the flight went on.

After ordering two double vodka sodas, the perpetrator became “uncontrollably drunk and loudly sexually harassed” her, the lawsuit alleges. He also repeatedly touched her hair without her permission and grabbed her buttocks as she tried to escape him.

Things started off innocently enough, with the perpetrator constantly talking and wanting to chat with Gretchen. She played along at first and didn’t think the man’s behavior was too bad but after being served alcohol, he started to make “vile, offensive, and harassing comments”.

The lawsuit alleges that the man told Gretchen that he wanted to perform a sex act on her, and that he would eventually “wear her down”.

Gretchen says she felt trapped but another passenger sitting in front of her noticed what was happening and summoned a flight attendant. Rather than helping, however, the flight attendant trusted the perpetrator when he said he was “just having fun” and took no further action.

“He walked away, allowing the assailant to keep the alcohol (that) was left in his glass as well as the bottle of vodka then remaining in plain sight on his tray table,” the lawsuit claims.

After the flight attendant walked away, her seatmate touched her hair, tried to hold her hand and tried to kiss her.

In the end, the passenger sitting in front of Gretchen offered to swap seats but as she got up from her seat, the perpetrator grabbed her buttocks. For the remainder of the flight, the man allegedly continued to verbally assault her.

Upon landing, police were called to meet the aircraft and the man was removed by medical personnel on a stretcher after it was determined that he was took drunk to walk on his own.

That, however, didn’t stop gate agents from allegedly victim-blaming Gretchen and telling her that she hadn’t done enough to stop the assault.

Gretchen filed a complaint with American Airlines, and despite promises that her concerns would be escalated, she has not heard back from the carrier.

American Airlines has declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The carrier is facing multiple lawsuits from the families of young girls who were targeted by a flight attendant using a hidden camera to take photos and videos of them using the lavatory on American Airlines flights.

The airline faced criticism after it emerged that its appointed attorneys tried to get one of the lawsuits dismissed by victim-blaming, suggesting that the victims should have noticed the hidden camera.

American Airlines quickly distanced itself from the victim-blaming legal approach and sacked the attorneys responsible for drafting the defense. The airline continues to try to dismiss the lawsuits on the basis that it can’t responsibility for the actions of its own flight attendants.

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