Know Before You Go: Survivor-Centered Travel Tips for TSA Screenings

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Airport travel—especially during the holidays—can bring extra anxiety for survivors of sexual violence. The possibility that TSA may require a pat-down or other physical interactions during the security process can be stressful. RAINN compiled a list of ways to make the TSA process a little easier for survivors, because being informed is a form of self-care:

  • You can print and fill out a TSA Disability Notification Card. While you will still need to go through screening, this will allow you to have an alternative screening procedure, which can be conducted in private.
  • If you are required to undergo a pat-down, you have the right to request a private pat-down. You can also request to receive a pat-down from an officer of the same gender. TSA officers will explain the procedure to you as they conduct the pat-down so you will know what to expect next. You may ask for a chair to sit in as well, especially if you have difficulties lifting your arms or legs. In addition, there will be a second officer of the same gender present during the pat-down.
  • You can request assistance for the TSA screening process by completing Request for TSA Cares Assistance. Travelers requiring special accommodations or concerned about the security screening process at the airport may ask a TSA officer or supervisor for a passenger support specialist who can provide on-the-spot assistance.
  • For child travelers, TSA developed a screening process for travelers who appear to be 12 years old or younger. TSA will speak with the parent first before proceeding with the screening of a child. TSA is required to assist a child with a disability and/or a medical condition (but will not remove your child from their wheelchair, scooter, or supportive device). Call TSA CARES 72 hours prior to traveling with questions about screening procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.

And remember, you can always chat with or call a trained staff member on RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline before or after your TSA screening at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or online at

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