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Bainbridge Island woman sues Delta, hoping to force policy change on sexual assault

Allison Dvaladze helped bring attention to sexual assaults on airplanes, and now she is suing Delta Air Lines. She said she hopes to protect other passengers by forcing new training for flight crews. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE –Allison Dvaladze helped bring attention to sexual assaults on airplanes, and now she is suing Delta Air Lines. She said she hopes to protect other passengers by forcing new training for flight crews.

Dvaladze, who lives on Bainbridge Island, has traveled the world for her work in women's health. On Monday, she filed a lawsuit with the intent of safeguarding other air passengers from the sexual assault she said she experienced during a Delta Air Lines flight.

“If you are sexually assaulted and you complain to the airline, they don't have to report that," Dvaladze said.

RELATED | Unsafe skies: Sexual assaults on airliners a growing problem

Dvaladze said she was groped while she tried to sleep on a flight headed for Uganda, with a connection through Amsterdam. While the flight crew seemed sympathetic, no one knew how to deal with the passenger who allegedly assaulted her.

She lobbied Delta for policy changes, then turned to Congress for help but the bill stalled in the Senate. Now that she is pursuing a lawsuit, she hopes to force changes industrywide - saying the problem goes far beyond a single airline.

“That's what I'm trying to contribute to right now is the volume of women who are saying this is enough and we want to see action taken by airlines to protect passengers,” she said.

Delta Air Lines declined to comment for this story.

Dvaladze’s attorney said at this point they're only seeking monetary damages. Turns out, the law doesn't allow them to force airlines to change training policies.

“We can bring a lawsuit and as a result of a lawsuit we expect policy change,” “We certainly expect them to do things to make travel safer once they realize these injuries are occurring and these accidents are occurring."

Currently there are no federal rules for airlines to train cabin crews on how to handle sexual assaults. However, some carriers teach crews how to respond to "unruly" or "disruptive" passengers by separating them and notifying the captain.

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