Alleged Cruise Ship Sexual Assault in St. Kitts Highlights Continued Lack of Transparency in Cruise Crime Reporting

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise ship inspectionOur firm has reported on numerous sexual assault incidents aboard cruise lines over the years. In some cases, the incidents have involved other cruise passengers as the assailants, while in other cases, crew members themselves have been the suspects. Just last February, we reported on a horrific incident involving a female passenger who was brutally assaulted and raped by a Holland America crew member in her own stateroom. But while the idea of a crew member breaking into a passenger cabin seems to many a farfetched concept, sadly, the rate of sexual crimes on the high seas is more common than anyone might imagine. In fact, comprising 55 percent of all crimes reported to the FBI, sexual assault is the most frequently occurring offense on the high seas, and one of the most covered up.

We’ve previously discussed how cruise lines have underreported crimes over the years, mostly due to the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries. By doing so, cruise lines are able to avoid stricter U.S. laws and are not as bound to disclose crime data as they would were ships to be registered in the United States. Also, with full disclosure of all criminal incidents onboard ships, cruise lines risk the negative press associated with these crimes and a drop in bookings. After all, who would feel safe traveling with a cruise line that held a high rate of sexual assault crimes?

Last year, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller introduced a bill that would require cruise lines to increase transparency in their crime data reporting. The legislation was proposed after it became increasingly clear that the cruise industry was withholding information about their crime stats, especially when it came to sexual crimes. According to FBI data, cruise lines only reported 29 sexual assault or rape incidents to the organization in 2012 and only 11 of these incidents to the public. Who knows how many more incidents occurred that were withheld from both the FBI and civilians?

Which leads us to our next point. A news source in St. Kitts recently published a story on an alleged sexual assault incident onboard a cruise ship. The attack supposedly occurred on June 6 while the vessel was docked at Porte Zante. Oddly enough, no details regarding which cruise ship the supposed incident occurred on or information about the actual incident were provided. Is someone trying to conceal information?

According to the news source, the perpetrator is rumored to be one of the cruise ship’s crew members. Authorities have been allegedly notified, but when the new source tried questioning the police over the incident, investigators refused to either deny or confirm any sexual assault had even occurred.

This wouldn’t be the first time rumors of a sexual assault were made, but never confirmed. Last year, we published an article about a similar sexual crime that supposedly took place onboard the Carnival Triumph during the time the ship became disabled off the coast of Mexico following a fire.

To this day, we still don’t know what happened onboard the ship or even if the allegations were true. This is mostly attributed to that little loophole we just talked about, the fact that the vessel flies a foreign flag. In the Triumph’s case, it’s a Bahamian flag, but for other cruise lines, that flag could be from a number of other countries. In order for the public to learn any information, police investigating the incident in the foreign country must first inform U.S. authorities of what’s going on, and only after U.S. authorities decide to go public with the information, will civilians get to hear about the crime. Neither the FBI nor the foreign country’s authorities are required to disclose information. What’s worse, even if the foreign country’s authorities find the assailant, they may not even punish the offender for their crimes. Knowing the victims are most likely not going to come back to the port or bother with a lengthy investigation of their own, foreign authorities might just drop the matter altogether, allowing a sexual assailant to go free.

Sadly, this happens all the time. According to cruiserape.com, a cruise ship rape and sexual assault support center, one major cruise line reported a whopping 99 sexual assault crimesonboard its ships over a five year period. Another major cruise line reported a horrific 173 sexual crimes within a five year period. But the worst part is the fact that NONE of these crimes resulted in a single prosecution.

Because of the fact that BOTH foreign port authorities AND cruise lines tend to conceal and/or downplay crimes, it is imperative for anyone who has suffered a sexual crime to consult with an experienced cruise ship rape lawyer for legal counsel as quickly as possible. Sexual crimes must be investigated as soon as possible for risk of evidence being tampered with. And with so many loopholes in both cruise ship operations and foreign country laws, it’s imperative to have an attorney on the case who is knowledgeable in maritime law who can help victims obtain the justice they deserve.