According to credible statistics, sexual assault is the number one crime reported on cruise ships. However, victims of these heinous crimes rarely obtain justice. Although the crime might occur at sea and sometimes in a foreign jurisdiction, it is still a crime whose perpetrators should face charges. It is the responsibility of all cruise ship operators to ensure the safety of their customers. The law also requires them to report any crimes that occur onboard to the police. Unfortunately, few companies provide adequate security to their clients or report crimes.
If you or your loved one has suffered cruise ship sexual abuse, you should consult a sex crime attorney. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we have over 20 years of experience representing cruise ship sexual abuse victims. We will ensure you receive fair compensation if you need a sex crimes attorney’s help in California.
Prevalence of Cruise Shop Sexual Abuse
According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), cruise ship sexual abuse is one of the most common alleged crimes reported. The DOT received reports of 83 alleged sexual assault cases in 2018. The department has received more than 220 cruise ship sexual assault cases since 2016. Carnival Cruise Lines reported the highest number of sexual assault cases in the last four months of 2019. However, the reported cases may be much lower than the actual sexual assault cases on the ships.
Many cruise ship companies do not report all assault cases on their cruise ships. They underreport the cases since they do not want to tarnish their reputation. Additionally, many victims are reluctant to report sexual assault since they feel the authorities will not take any action. Other victims do not report the crime since they are embarrassed and think it was their fault they were raped or sexually assaulted.
Remember, it is critical to enlist the services of a sex crime attorney if you suffer cruise ship sexual abuse.
Examples Of Reported Sexual Assault Crimes On Cruise Ships
The reported sex crimes aboard cruise ships increased by 67 % between 2018 and 2019. According to the Miami New Times, in 2019, several victims reported having suffered sexual abuse on a cruise ship.
For example, a group of men in 2019 raped a teenager. The victim reported the men made her drink alcohol and raped her. The incident happened on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. In the same year, 2019, a crew member gained access to the room of an 11-year-old and sexually assaulted the victim. The crime happened on the Norwegian Cruise Line. In 2016, a sixteen-year-old alleged that a fitness instructor molested them on a Carnival ship. Another perpetrator confessed to sexually abusing a female passenger. He used a master key to access the lady’s room and lay in wait. He then tried to throw the victim overboard after committing the crime.
The sad news is that many horrific cases like this are rampant in the cruise ship industry. Worse still, most of them are unreported. Many cruise ship companies impede the investigations, cover up the crimes, or silence the victims. Therefore, many sexual crime perpetrators do not face justice.
Effects Of Sexual Assault On Victims
Survivors of sexual assault often suffer emotional, physical, mental, and psychological effects. Some of the most common mental effects of rape and sexual assault include depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and dissociation, among other related effects. Below are the effects of sexual assault on victims.
Many survivors become depressed after the attack. They feel unfortunate and hopeless. They lose interest in previously enjoyed activities, lack self-drive, and suffer similar effects.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD causes the victim to have flashbacks of the fateful event. These flashbacks elicit anger, withdrawal from friends and family, hate, and nightmares. Many survivors also feel incredibly anxious for a long time after the sexual harassment.
Many victims develop suicidal thoughts since they suffer from low self-esteem after the incident. Most think they could have done something different to avoid the sexual assault. Consequently, the victims feel suicidal. Depression can also aggravate suicidal thoughts.
Many victims become dissociated in an attempt to forget the incident. They pull back from social activities, friendships and they have a challenge feeling present in their day-to-day endeavors. It becomes challenging to focus on work or school.
Some other effects of sexual harassment include having difficulty trusting other people, feeling ashamed of oneself, bursts of range, disorientation, shock, guilt, self-blame, numbness, helplessness, fear, and guilt. They also feel embarrassed, vulnerable, lonely, and live in denial.
Sexual assault victims also suffer long-term physical effects. Some of these effects include chronic fatigue, amnesia, changes in eating patterns, shortness of breath, sexual dysfunction, and other similar physical effects.
The victim may also develop other escapist tendencies to distance themselves from the reality of the violent crime. The victim may start to use drugs or alcohol or a combination of both. The victim may also suffer relationship problems because it becomes difficult to trust people, especially those of the opposite gender. They may also develop other mental issues like borderline personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder.
However, it is critical to remember you are not to blame for the sexual assault. The perpetrator is 100% responsible for the ordeal. Additionally, you have legal rights, and you are entitled to compensation.
Reasons As To Why A Significant Number Of Sexual Assualt Happens On The Cruise Ships
One of the reasons sexual abuse happens on cruise ships is because of their massive size and complicated designs. If you are not well versed with the vessel, you might lose your bearings and end up in a dingy part of the vessel where sexual predators may take advantage of you. Additionally, staff on these ships usually have access to the passengers' sleeping quarters or cabins. The perpetrators also feel they can get away with the crime more easily on the cruise ship than on land. Most cruise ship liners do not provide adequate security to passengers. The lack of security allows the predators to harass their victims sexually.
The ship's security team comprises employees of the cruise ship company. They are not members of an independent security organization or the police force. Therefore, they may not conduct a thorough investigation into the cases of sexual assault. In most cases, the owners of cruise ship companies do not want such incidences to be reported. Therefore, they may interfere with the investigation or direct the security personnel not to pursue the investigation.
Alcohol is one of the most significant risk factors contributing to cruise ship sexual abuse cases. Unfortunately, it is usually in plenty on cruise ships. A crew member may intentionally serve a person too much alcohol so that they can sexually assault them later when they are blacked out. Most cruise liners do not thoroughly vet their employees to understand their character. They rarely conduct a background check on their employees. Therefore, some sexual predators may have access to unsuspecting victims. Most cruise liners also do not provide employee training on preventing sexual assault. The cruise liners also fail to report rape or other sexual assault incidences.
Due to these loopholes, the sexual predators are most likely to go unpunished for their crimes. Many cruise liners cover up sexual abuse to preserve their reputation.
The Law Requires Cruise Ship Operators To Report Crimes Committed Onboard.
Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2020 to encourage more reporting of crimes committed on cruise vessels. The law requires the cruise ship operators to report the crime to the FBI immediately or as soon as it occurs. However, the law has a loophole since it demands the operators report only the crimes that occur, not the alleged crimes. Only 31 of the crimes were reported to the public since 2011 against a backdrop of 959 reported to the FBI.
According to statics by the four leading cruise lines reported 25 allegations of statutory rape, rape, and sexual harassment. These crimes happened in four months. However, according to a report by the senate, these statistics represent only a small percentage of the actual cruise ship sexual abuse. If you are sexually abused, it is critical to understand that the cruise ship company can be held liable if the court proves the crime happened onboard the vessel.
Determining Who Has Jurisdiction Over Sexual Assault Victims On A Cruise Ship
It is difficult to determine who had jurisdiction over sexual assault cases when sexual assault happens outside the US territorial waters. The FBI usually has jurisdiction over the cases that happen on US territorial waters. The Federal Bureau of Investigation will handle the case if you or the perpetrator is a US citizen. They will also have jurisdiction over the case if the ship docks or sails from a US harbor.
However, if you or the perpetrator are not US citizens or the ship is not docking or sailing from a US harbor, the authorities use various parameters to determine the jurisdiction over the sexual assault case. The authorities will determine the ship's location at the time of the crime, the perpetrator’s nationality, the victim’s nationality, the point of departure, the docking destination, and the country where the ship is registered. The authorities will decide how to proceed with the sexual assault case.
How Can You Stay Safe On A Cruise Ship To Avoid Cruise Ship Sexual Abuse
As much as it is the cruise ship management’s responsibility to ensure you are safe, you also have to be conscious of your safety while onboard. Below are some of the actions you can take to remain safe on a cruise ship.
Stay Vigilant At All Times
Cruising on the ship with friends may give some people the sense of being free of any danger. However, you should be as vigilant on a cruise ship as you would be if you were visiting a new city. As much as you are enjoying yourself, you should always remember to put your safety first. You should make sure your door is locked at all times. Always have the keys to your room with you wherever you are on the cruise ship. Never allow a stranger or a crew member you do not know into your room. Remember, children are more vulnerable than adults. Therefore, you should always supervise your kids keenly. Never allow your kids to roam anywhere on the ship unaccompanied.
It is always better to travel in a group for security purposes. Ensure you know where your mates are at all times. Also, arrange times when you check in with each other if you part ways. Do not consume excessive alcohol. Cruise liners usually have numerous bars and avenues through which you can access alcohol. You are at a higher risk of suffering cruise ship sexual abuse when drunk than when sober.
Inform The Authorities About The Crime Immediately
It is essential to inform the authorities about the incident as soon as possible. You should notify the coast guard, the cruise ship authority, and the FBI. Although the cruise ship security may tell you they will tell the FBI or the Coast Guard about the sexual assault on your behalf, you should go ahead and notify them yourself. The contact for the headquarters of the FBI in Washington D.C is 202-324-3000. You can also reach the coast guard on 757- 398- 6390. These offices serve the East Coasts, Great Lakes, and Gulf Coasts. For Hawaii, Pacific, and Alaskan Coasts, you should contact the Coast Guard at 510-437-3700. Understandably, you may not want to speak about the incident. However, doing so will help you have a stronger case against the cruise ship company and the perpetrator.
Make Sure You Preserve The Evidence
Ensure you preserve the evidence. You should visit the medical examiner on the cruise ship before you bathe or have a change of clothes. The medic will document any injuries you suffered during the sexual assault. Most importantly, they will treat you. You should also take pictures of the scene and record the events before the attack. Doing so will help you paint a better picture of the investigators. Due to the traumatic nature of sexual abuse, it is pretty common to forget what happened before the attack. Your written notes and pictures will help your attorney build a strong case against the defendant.
Contact A Trustworthy Sex Crimes Attorney
It is critical to enlist the services of a competent sex crimes attorney. The lawyer should also be trustworthy and can handle your case with the discretion it requires. The lawyer will help you argue your case in court and counter any arguments the opposing counsel may present in court. Your attorney will guide you through this challenging time and help you understand your rights as a cruise ship sexual abuse victim.
Understanding Your Rights As A Cruise Ship Passenger
Remember, you enjoy the same rights on a cruise ship as you do when you are at home or on dry land. You have a right to safety at home, as do you have when on a cruise ship. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the cruise ship authority to ensure they protect your right to safety while on the vessel.
Under the Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS), Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, and Passenger Bill of Rights laws, cruise ship operators should report any case of sexual assault. Working with an experienced sex crime attorney is critical as they will help you navigate the complex world of maritime law, passenger rights, and other similar complexities should you suffer sexual abuse while on a cruise ship.
Understanding Crew Members Right On A Cruise Ship
You also have rights as a cruise ship crew member. The law also protects you against sexual harassment as you carry out your duties. The law protects you against sexual harassment from your fellow crew members, bosses, or passengers. According to the Merchant Marine Act, commonly referred to as the Jones Act, you have a right to seek legal recourse against sexual assault, rape, false imprisonment, and battery. According to the law, you qualify as a seaman if you spend more than 30% of your time on the sea vessel in navigable water as a crew member. The law requires the cruise ship company to provide you with “maintenance” and “care” while recovering from any injuries you sustain while working.
The benefits will cater for your living expenses and medical costs until a doctor declares you fit to work again. You are entitled to these benefits even if the cause of the injury or illness is sexual abuse. You are also entitled to psychiatric and psychological care.
Types Of Cruise Ship Sexual Abuses
Due to the sheer number of passengers on a cruise ship, various types of sexual abuse occur on these vessels. Some of the most common types include alcohol-related sexual abuse, sexual abuse where minors are involved, sexual assault by a crew member against a passenger, sexual assault against a fellow crew member, and sexual assault against a passenger by a fellow passenger.
Below are the sexual abuse types on cruise liners in more detail:
Alcohol-Related Sexual Abuse
Unfortunately, alcohol on cruise ships is usually in plenty, and most people consume it out of control. Most cruise ship companies have packages that offer unlimited alcohol. Therefore, many passengers tend to overuse the beverage. Overuse can lead to many unwanted outcomes, including sexual abuse. The security team is responsible for ensuring underage children do not drink. However, due to the sheer number of people on the ship, this task becomes challenging. Therefore, underage children also have access to alcohol which contributes to increased cases of sexual assault. When a person becomes intoxicated, they are not entirely in control of their cognitive faculties. Therefore, it becomes easier for a predator to sexually harass you while drunk.
Sexual Assault Towards Minors
The sad news is that sexual abuse against minors aboard cruise ships accounts for a significant percentage of sexual abuse victims. It is much easier for minors to fall prey to sexual predators because they are not as vigilant or conscious of danger as adults. Moreover, it is much easier for a perpetrator to trick a child and take sexual take advantage of them, especially on the high seas.
Sexual Assault By A Crew Member Against A Passenger
The offender can also be a crew member. The crew member and the cruise ship company are entirely liable for the offense in such a case. It is the responsibility of the cruise ship company to ensure your safety while you are onboard. Therefore, if you suffer any sexual assault from a crew member, the cruise ship company is wholly liable for the offense.
Sexual Assault Against A Fellow Crew Member
If a crew member sexually assaults a fellow crew member, the perpetrator is liable for an offense. Additionally, the cruise ship liner can also be held liable for the offense.
Sexual Assault Against A Passenger By A Fellow Passenger
Unlike the crew member against a passenger case, you need to prove other aspects of the cruise liner for the cruise ship company to be held liable for the sexual assault by a fellow passenger. You must prove the negligence of the cruise liner led to or contributed to the rape. For example, you need to prove that the cruise ship company did not have adequate security measures to deter the perpetrator. You can also argue the cruise ship company did not warn you of the possibility of sexual assault while you are on board.
Call A Sex Defense Attorney Near Me
Sexual assault is a harrowing experience. You suffer physical, psychological, and emotional trauma as a result of the ordeal. However, you should realize that the sexual assault was not your fault. You should also seek medical and psychological treatment immediately or as soon as possible after the ordeal.
Dealing with a cruise ship sexual abuse case is a complicated legal matter. Therefore, you should enlist the services of a qualified and well-experienced sex crime attorney. At Sex Crimes Attorney, our lawyers have a wealth of experience representing rape and sexual assault victims. Integrity, compassion, and excellence are ingrained in our work ethic. If you suffered cruise ship sexual assault in California do not hesitate to contact us at 888-666-8480 today for a free consultation.