Mimesis Law
27 January 2022

Groping, Sexual Assault, And Twitter

October 27, 2016 (Fault Lines) – “It’s not the crime of the century.” Insensitive? Perhaps. But, true nonetheless. After reportedly being groped on a plane, Ariana Lenarsky took to Twitter to express her dismay over what she claims is a broken system when it comes to reporting sexual abuse. Undecided as to whether or not she really wants to pursue charges, Lenarsky has found it indispensable to seek advice from the Twittersphere.

As with anything that goes viral, news outlets are jumping all over this one, adding their own spin. Sarah Burris at Rawstory writes, Lenarsky took action because no one else would:

Unfortunately for Lenarsky and other women, complaints of sexual harassment, groping and even sexual assault are still not taken seriously, even by law enforcement. However, it should be taken as seriously as assault and battery since it is seen as part of personal injury. Those who find themselves as victims of such assault should be able to get in touch with a lawyer similar to a Deer Park injury attorney if they need help.

Never mind that law enforcement did take action.

Sarah Biddlecombe at Stylist reports Lenarsky live tweeted her experience to shed light on how difficult it can be for women to report sexual abuse:

Incredibly, when Lenarsky reached out to the police they informed her that they would ensure they gave the man “a talking to” but that “it’s not the crime of the century”.

Never mind that it wasn’t really that difficult to report. They just had to wait for the plane to land.

It all started with a tweet:

Some guy grabbed & stroked my calf (??) as I walked by on the plane, so I took his picture. Not gonna post it, but I hope he’s freaked out.
@aardvarsk 6:33pm 22 Oct 2016

Apparently, she may have been somewhat unsure of what actually happened. “(??)” Unless perhaps she didn’t know how to spell calf, it reads as if she wasn’t really sure what just happened. Some guy grabbed her leg. Offensive? Sure! But not so offended that she couldn’t stop to take a pic. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. As a bonus, she hoped to freak him out by taking the picture even though she never intended to post it. Nothing like getting a little even: he overstepped his bounds and she retaliated in hopes of striking fear.

Not satisfied that she had struck the right amount of fear, she informed the flight crew as to the offensive touching.

I just told the flight attendants, and they both nodded. They already knew who it was, because other women already complained. Lol.
@aardvarsk 7:01pm 22 Oct 2016

“Lol.” Of course this is all funny. Funny that the flight attendants nodded? Funny that someone else had already complained? It’s all fun and games. Or maybe just an adventure:

It’s like a real-time Choose Your Own Adventure for how to deal with harassment.
@aardvarsk 7:17pm 22 Oct 2016

Seems this live tweeting was not sufficient. Something more had to be done. The flight crew needed to be more involved and needed to actually do something.

I am now going to ask the flight attendants what they plan to do when we land.
@aardvarsk 7:54pm 22 Oct 2016

They told the captain and are filing a report with the airline. Local authorities will meet the plane when we land.
@aardvarsk 8:11pm 22 Oct 2016

Because of course, it is the flight attendants’ responsibility to address the situation. After all, she told them at approximately 7:01 pm. Now, approaching 8:00 pm, it seemed they had not properly or adequately addressed her complaint. It was time to find out what they planned to do. Pushing the issue, the captain requested law enforcement involvement.

Police took him off the plane. I’m still here & they’re taking my & another woman’s report. The legal term for how he grabbed me is battery.
@aardvarsk 9:57pm 22 Oct 2016

If I want to press charges, I’d have to fly back to Austin on my dime, since it’s Austin PD’s jurisdiction. I don’t want to do that.
@aardvarsk 10:17pm 22 Oct 2016

Not quite sure where or how Lenarsky learned the term was battery. Perhaps from the Twittersphere, renown for its accurate legal advice. Perhaps from law enforcement who met the plane. Not to parse words, some states may call this action a battery. In Texas, there is no such offense. Texas does have an assault statute that is akin to other states’ battery offenses. At best, the touching would be offensive. And, that is a class C misdemeanor: the equivalent of a traffic ticket punishable by fine only.

It’s also not real clear on how or why Lenarsky would believe she would have to fly back to Austin on her own dime to press charges. That’s not the way things work. Yes, Austin, Texas is the proper jurisdiction. This man stroked her leg as she was boarding the plane – in Austin, Texas. There was no further contact between the two once air bound.

Citizens phone in police reports all the time. Citizens report conduct in one jurisdiction to have it transferred to another appropriate jurisdiction. In fact, the Austin Police Department actually reached out to her and took a report. She didn’t even have to call them. They called her. So all this cry about how difficult it is for women to report offenses is simply propaganda with no basis in fact – at least with regard to this offense.

Police said they would “give him a talking to”& “it’s not the crime of the century.” True! I’m going to tweet his picture now since it’s nbd
@aardvarsk 10:19pm 22 Oct 2016*

The FBI told Lenarsky they would “give him a talking to” as this was “not the crime of the century.” Was the comment insensitive? Sure. But, let’s be realistic. This was, in fact, not the crime of the century. It happened in Austin, Texas and the local police would be the proper jurisdiction to address this misdemeanor. And guess what? They have addressed it. They have taken her report.

Regardless, Lenarsky believes the system is broken: it is too difficult to report assaults.

By sharing this story, I believe I have inadvertently illuminated that the process of reporting assault is broken.
@aardvarsk 10:57pm 24 Oct 2016

No one – from twitter all the way up to the FBI – has a clear, just, and efficient protocol for how to handle sexual assault and battery.
@aardvarsk 11:03pm 24 Oct 2016

Wait! Now it’s sexual assault and battery? What happened to the harassment? What happened to the battery? To be clear, Texas does have a sexual assault statute. It used to be called “rape,” but in a kinder gentler approach, the legislators renamed the offense to be more politically correct. But nothing described by Lenarsky would even remotely rise to an offense of sexual assault. But what’s the fun in that? It’s tough to keep up the hysteria and media over a class C offensive touching.

Lots of tweeting. Lots of media attention. But the more important question, should Lenarsky actually press charges?

Aside from my interview today on KCRW, I haven’t spoken w/ any media. I think now the next step is to decide if I should press charges.
@aardvarsk 11:21pm 25 Oct 2016

I’ve found it indispensible to utilize twitter as a sounding board as I take this whole debacle step by step. Thank you all for being there.
@aardvarsk 11:45pm 25 Oct 2016

And, she’s looking for your advice to help her decide. So much for it being so difficult to report. It’s really about whether the Twittersphere thinks she should or shouldn’t.

*In a later tweet, Lenarsky clarified it was the FBI who had these statements rather than police.

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  • PSS
    27 October 2016 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Sad that she had to wait for confirmation from the twittersphere that she had been mistreated, because if she had reported it while the plane was still on the ground here in good ol’ ATX – by, say, stopping dead in the aisle and exclaiming in her best drama-workshop project-to-the-last-row voice, “Did you just grope my leg?!” – the whole law enforcement response aspect would have been greatly simplified and the flight crew would most likely have had the guy removed from the plane regardless of what LE did.