United Airlines
A teen girl was allegedly groped during a United Airlines flight from Seattle to Newark, New Jersey, in July. In this photo, United Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport on July 8, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A teen girl who was allegedly groped during a United Airlines flight from Seattle to Newark, New Jersey, last month joined her mother in speaking publicly about the incident. The 16-year-old — whose identity along with her mother’s was withheld at their request — said her alleged assaulter robbed her of “peace of mind.”

The girl said she was asleep when a man began touching her during the overnight flight, which she boarded alone July 23. In an interview with CBS News published Thursday, the girl — who was en route to New Jersey after winning admission to a young women’s leadership academy at Princeton — spoke about her ordeal.

“I could feel his hand on my thigh, and one of his hands had like, came between my legs and he was rubbing in between my legs and then he tried to put his other hand underneath my pants and I kind of woke up and was like ‘What are you doing?’” she said.

As International Business Times previously reported, a federal complaint of the incident stated the man — who was identified by the girl as 28-year-old Vijakumar Krishnappa — removed his hand from the teen’s leg when she woke up. But when she again nodded off, he allegedly “put his hand on her groin and inner thigh, and began rubbing the Victim through her clothing.”

When the teen notified a flight attendant about the incident, she was moved to another row. But the girl told CBS that she felt like “he could see wherever I was sitting.”

Both the girl and her mother said that the teen’s assaulter walked free after deboarding the flight. While the company’s policy requires that the carrier notify the authorities of all incidents of misconduct, United Airlines reportedly breached its protocol in handling the incident. It wasn’t until the girl’s mother notified a United terminal supervisor by phone that the FBI, which handles crimes committed in the United States airspace, became involved and was able to track down the passenger later that day.

Reached for comment by IBT, the carrier did not give a direct response to comments made by the girl and her mother about its handling of the incident.

“The safety and security of our customers is our top priority,” the airline told IBT. “We take these allegations seriously and continue to work closely with the proper authorities as part of their investigation.”

“I literally thought I was going to die,” her mother said. “I'm 3,000 miles away. My child says she's been sexually assaulted and I'm asking her questions and she's like, disoriented, I'm like, ‘Where is he? Do you see him?’ And she said, ‘He just walked by me.’ And I said, ‘Get the police! Get United!’”

“He had no right to touch me. He had no right. I guess I would say he took my peace of mind,” the teen told CBS. “I don't feel safe.”

Krishnappa — who is a doctor visiting the U.S. on a fellowship — is out on bail, according to CBS. If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison and a fine of $250,000 as well as deportation. Krishnappa’s attorney told CBS that he “adamantly denies the charges and deserves to be considered an innocent man.”

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