A Teacher Accidentally Saw A Fellow Flyer's Disturbing Texts. Then She Took Action.

If you see something, say something.

A preschool teacher's quick thinking led to the rescue of two children who were allegedly the targets of sexual abuse by a Washington couple. 

The Seattle-based preschool teacher, who is remaining anonymous, was on a San Jose-bound flight when she reportedly noticed some disturbing texts on another passenger's phone. Sensing something was amiss, the teacher began taking pictures of the man's phone in front of her as he texted. 

San Jose sex crimes Detective Nick Jourdenais and local police said the teacher was a hero.

"It was in large font, and she sees certain words and starts contemplating there's something bigger there," Jourdenais told The Mercury News. "Then the conversation transitions to children. That's the moment when she decided to preserve the evidence as best as she could."

A Carnegie Mellon University-produced video on SPOT: a prototype app that targets acquaintance rape with the help of people nearby.

The woman quietly got the attention of the Southwest flight crew, who contacted San Jose police and the airport division when they landed. According to investigators, the man in front of her admitted to the text messages but reportedly dismissed them as nothing more than fantasy.

But when investigators found the woman he was texting in Seattle, they says they also discovered two children aged 5 and 7 that were likely the subjects of the man's texts. In a statement, the city of Seattle said the woman "had access to children either as a caregiver or babysitter." 

"It's kind of mind-blowing," Jourdenais said of the preschool teacher's quick thinking. "She gets on a plane, a normal citizen minding her business. A couple of hours later, she's intervening on quite possibly the most traumatic thing children can go through. This was life-altering for them."

As reported by a local Fox affiliate, the two children were rescued and are now in protective custody, and the apprehended man and the woman he was texting are currently behind bars.

This isn't the first time a bystander has intervened to offer a life-changing helping hand. A Plus has reported on dozens of similar cases: the three California women who stopped a date rape, a commuter who stood up for a Muslim woman being harassed, good Samaritans who stopped a violent man in the airport, and even a guitarist who stopped a women from being sexually harassed at one of his shows. Now, there are even bystander-focused apps to help prevent rape and guides on intervention.

And the amazing story of this preschool teacher is yet another reminder of bystanders' potential impact.

"We always preach 'If you see something, say something.' It was apparent to her to say something. She wasn't going to take this home," Jourdenais told The Mercury News. "She sees herself as a guardian and protector. It should be acknowledged."

Visit RAINN to learn about steps you can take if you suspect a child you know is being abused.

Cover photo via Shutterstock / George P Atkinson / Nomad_Soul.


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