Yukari Miyamae Says She Doesn't Like Being Touched

The Longmont woman accused of grabbing a Transportation Security Administration agent's breast spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday, explaining that she doesn't like to be touched because she was abducted as a child and has a heightened sense of personal space.

Yukari Miyamae told Boulder community radio station KGNU, where she works a volunteer DJ, that she was abducted when she was 7 years old. The 61-year-old said that she was born in Japan and because of that experience and her upbringing, she doesn't like people touching her.

"I have a very strong sense of endangerment. I have a high alert system for my safety," said a soft-spoken Miyamae. "People don't usually come near me that close."

She explained that she felt she was targeted in Phoenix where she is "terrorized" by TSA agents, who have forced her to endure pat downs every time she passes through the city in her capacity as an interpreter.

"I started this job in May and I've been subject to aggressive pat downs a few times ... (where they are) grabbing my breast, grabbing all my sore sensitive area, from my side to the front of my body, to the inside of my thigh," Miyamae said. "I just suffer so much from being subject to a pat down."

Miyamae said she commutes to Phoenix every week and was dreading going through security at Sky Harbor when the confrontation with TSA agents occurred on July 14.

Miyamae said she noticed several travelers opting to go through the metal detector gate and those who did weren't being patted down. She said when it was her turn, she, too, asked to go through the metal detector but was told that the gate was now closed.

When she questioned agents about it, they surrounded her and told her she had no choice but to go through a pat down, she said.

"Hearing that I had no choice triggered my panic ... I cannot remember all the details. I was in this space of desperation. My peripheral vision was shrinking. I see all these people surrounding me, including police officers with guns. All these people look taller than me," said Miyamae, who is 5 feet tall.

"I felt the fear, I felt fear of being molested by these people," Miyamae said. "I cannot tolerate a stranger touching me."

She said security brought in a tall female TSA agent to explain to her "how the system works."

"And when she said, 'Let me show you how this is done,' I felt cornered," Miyamae said.

Miyamae said she clenched her hands up in a claw-like manner and reached out to push the woman away.

"This was just an instinctive moment. I just wanted to keep my space, my personal space, from this oppressive presence," she said. "I have a sense of boundary. I do not want a stranger too close to me ... I felt I was invaded. I felt like I had no choice."

The female TSA agent told her, "You touched me. You touched me. You cannot touch me."

"I said, 'You people always touch me and touch many people.' And she said, 'I didn't touch you. You touched me,'" Miyamae said.

Miyamae said an officer standing nearby witnessed what happened and asked the TSA agent if she wanted to press sexual assault charges.

"The TSA woman hesitated and the police officer again suggested, 'Would you like to charge her for sexual assault?' And she said yes and then immediately I was arrested," Miyamae said.

Miyamae said she didn't sexually assault anyone and was surprised that the police officer would suggest such serious charges against her.

"I didn't mean to do any harm. I didn't have any intention ... other than keeping this person away from my space," Miyamae said.

Miyamae was initially looking at a felony charge of sex abuse but prosecutors decided to drop the charge. Phoenix officials are still considering misdemeanor charges against her.

Miyamae's story turned into a national touchstone for anger over TSA's screening practices but she said she never intended to be hailed as a hero.

"I have a sense of boundary. I do not want a stranger too close to me," she said.

Although she said she never had an agenda, she agrees that security screening should be more closely scrutinized.

"In the airports in the Unites States, I feel like I'm treated like an animal, or things, not a person," Miyamae said. "I do hope that they actually learn from this media craziness that airport security is everybody's concern. We won't have effective, truly secure airport security ... (until we rethink that). We want that. We also want all our citizens to feel safe in their own body."

She, however, praised the TSA agents at Denver International Airport,

"I was patted down last week (at DIA). I was traumatized by it. I was crying and screaming," Miyamae said.

She said the TSA agent in Denver explained to her that she could go through a different metal detector if she didn't want to me touched.

"It was very informative. It's a decent, intelligent way of dealing with the real issue," Miyamae said.

That TSA agent also warned her when she started screaming and crying that she has to watch out what she does because there was a woman in Phoenix, who was arrested for doing the same thing.

"And I told her, 'That was me,'" Miyamae said.

To listen to the entire interview with KGNU, go to KGNU.net.