Two men accused of sexually assaulting fellow passengers aboard separate airline flights have been federally charged in a move meant to signal a heightened response to in-flight sex crimes.
Prosecutors in Seattle claim the men isolated and attacked women in what amounts to textbook cases of in-flight sexual abuse. One man is accused of groping a sleeping woman while she was incapacitated by prescription medication and alcohol; the other is alleged to have used his position in an outside seat to force himself on another passenger.
In recent months, the FBI has publicised sexual assaults on airlines as reports of the crime have increased. Survivors and their advocates contend the airlines often fail to notify authorities when passengers are accosted.
Announcing the charges made on Thursday, the US attorney Annette Hayes credited the #MeToo movement with empowering victims of sexual assault to come forward.
“If there is one thing we’ve learned in this year