Canadian journalist Joanna Chiu explained what happened on the airline from her perspective through a series of tweets on Monday

By Joelle Goldstein
March 29, 2019 12:36 AM
Credit: Joanna Chiu/Instagram

A Canadian journalist is encouraging others to speak up and intervene after she witnessed a man sexually harass a teenager on her flight this week.

Joanna Chiu said she was on a Canadian airline Monday, just about ready to fall asleep, when she began to listen to the conversation behind her involving a man in his late 30’s and a teenage girl.

In a lengthy thread shared on Twitter, Chiu, the bureau chief at The Star Vancouver and Toronto Star, explained that the man began to flirt with the young woman before it escalated to him asking for a dirty photo — at which point Chiu said she intervened.

“A man appearing in his late thirties was obviously delighted to be seated next to a teenager separated from the rest of her family. He started off by asking about her career plans and laughed when she said she wanted to be CEO and kept giving her ridiculous advice,” Chiu explained in one of her early tweets.

The journalist said that the girl’s friendliness seemed to be misinterpreted by the man as a “welcome cue to get very familiar,” which led to him teasing her and saying that he wanted to take her out to eat — which Chiu said the girl ignored.

As she stayed awake to monitor the situation, Chiu said she then allegedly heard the man ask the girl for a dirty photo. At that point, Chiu said she turned around and snapped at him.

Credit: Joanna Chiu/Twitter

“He didn’t say anything back and went off to use the washroom,” she explained.

While he was gone, Chiu and another woman sitting behind the girl, who also heard what had happened, offered to help. As Chiu called over a flight attendant, the woman behind the teenager told her she “had the right to change seats.”

After investigating the situation with the help of other witnesses, Chiu said the flight attendants confronted the man and asked him to move. “He resisted then started swearing at me,” Chiu recalled, adding that the head flight attendant threatened to land the plane if the man did not oblige.

The journalist explained that he finally did move seats and applauded the flight attendants for their actions, which included writing up a report of the man’s behavior.

“They handled the situation well as far as I could tell, and it’s good to know other adult women passengers on the plane were paying attention and taking action while trying not to embarrass the teen,” Chiu said.

Credit: Joanna Chiu/Twitter

Chiu noted that the incident brought back memories of her own airline sexual harassment and urged people to speak out when they notice signs of bad behavior.

“All adults need to be on guard and know there are things we can do to intervene even when a crime hadn’t technically been committed yet. Men need to figure out how to ‘spot creeps’ in their vicinity as well and men can help too to prevent harassment or assault,” she wrote.

“It’s so disturbing there are predatory people out there who act like they have no idea what they’re doing is wrong,” Chiu added.

Credit: Joanna Chiu/Twitter
Credit: Joanna Chiu/Twitter

While she said it was unclear whether the man would be monitored by flight crews in the future, he was reportedly confronted by security after getting off the plane.

Though she did not share his information on social media, Chiu said she was aware of his name and the company he worked for and had plans to send them a private note about his alleged actions.

Chiu also said she was praised for intervening in the situation and snapped a photo of the letter that the flight crew had written her and the other female bystander.

In the note, the flight attendants had thanked her for “being their eyes and ears during the flight,” and said she “helped put a stop to a very uncomfortable situation.”

The journalist did not identify the airline as she explained, that due to her job, she could not be seen endorsing a company.

Credit: Joanna Chiu/Twitter

Since speaking out about the incident, Chiu’s tweets have gone viral. Nearly every tweet on the thread had thousands of retweets and likes, with the first message alone accumulating over 169,000 likes.

Chiu also shared several links about bystander invention, as well as an op-ed piece she had written in the wake of the incident.

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In addition, her tweets have sparked conversations between male and female users alike on the social platform, as well as discussions around airline protocol.

“Hundreds of men have also shared the Twitter thread and many said that they weren’t aware that airplane harassment was so common, and they promised to be vigilant, too,” she wrote.

“Thank you everyone,” Chiu added. “Social media can be a good place sometimes.”