Shelia Frederick, a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, is making headlines for helping a teenager on one her flights get out of a potential sex trafficking situation, according to WTSP. That's pretty impressive, especially considering she still had to serve drinks and snacks.*
Several years ago, Sheila Frederick was working on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco when she noticed a disheveled teenage girl (about 14- or 15-years-old) with dirty hair sitting next to a well-dressed older man. Frederick couldn't help but notice the contrast between the two passengers. When she would speak to the pair, the girl wouldn't make eye contact or answer her; the man spoke for them both. These signs made Frederick wonder if the teenager was somehow being controlled by the man.
The 49-year-old Alabama native came up with the ingenious plan to get the girl to go to the restroom, where she'd left her a note on the mirror. The girl reportedly wrote on the note, confirming that she did indeed need help. Sheila Frederick told the pilot and when they landed, police were there to arrest the teenager's traveling companion.
All of this was years ago, and Frederick and the girl she saved have stayed in touch (the girl is now in college). But other flight attendants are able to learn from intuition like Frederick's, and hopefully be able to save more people from similar fates, thanks to a training program put together by Nancy Rivard.
Rivard, the founder of Airline Ambassadors, and a former flight attendant herself, hopes the training will help flight attendants spot signs like a person who is bruised or battered, who won't answer questions or make eye contact, or who seems to be being controlled in any way. As Sheila Frederick said, "If you see something, say something." She told WTSP:
I've been a flight attendant for 10 years and it's like I am going all the way back to when I was in training and I was like I could have seen these young girls and young boys and didn't even know.
Training people to know what to look for seems to be having a positive effect. Reports of trafficking are on the rise, and while this initially sounds bad, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) attributes the increase in reporting to the new training.
[*That's a joke. Not a good one, but it's hard to come up with something light-hearted when the subject is sex trafficking.]