Carnival Valor Crew Member Arrested Following Sexual Assault in St. Kitts; Why Victim Should Consult with a Cruise Ship Rape Lawyer

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

HandcuffsEarlier this week, we reported on an alleged sexual assault aboard a cruise ship in St. Kitts on June 6. There wasn’t much information on the supposed incident at first, aside from suggestions that the alleged assailant was a crew member, but a recent article published by a local news source has confirmed that the assault did in fact take place and the attacker was in fact a Carnival crew member.

According to the news source, the assault occurred onboard the Carnival Valor, while the vessel was berthed at Port Zante. Details are still scarce, but the source reports that cruise operators alerted local authorities of the incident and the assailant was taken into custody the same day and charged with rape. The victim was a female passenger aboard the ship, but due to privacy concerns, their identity was not revealed. Unlike a victim’s privacy rights, however, the identity of the assailant can be disclosed. Strangely, neither local authorities nor Carnival operators have yet to provide details on the crew member’s name or the circumstances surrounding the assault.

We here find it extremely odd that the details regarding this cruise ship rape – which occurred nearly a week ago – still remain so ambiguous. Though cruise lines have long failed to accurately report crimes aboard their ships, especially sexual crimes, the identity of the assailant is usually revealed a few days after the incident is initially reported. This particular incident seems to be under wraps, which leads us to believe there may be something neither local authorities nor Carnival want to reveal.

First off, the fact that the attack happened in a foreign port already limits the amount of information that will reach us here in the US. Due to the inherent complexity in maritime laws, St. Kitts police have jurisdiction over the investigation process, since it was reported in sovereign waters. Local police were the ones to decide whether or not the arrest should have taken place, and now, it’s up to local police to determine the fate of the suspect. Local authorities might choose to prosecute the individual, or they might choose to have the crew member extradited to their home country, and allow that country’s authorities to take over the case. This is the typical outcome because cruise lines are more than happy to send the suspect back home so they don’t have to deal with them.

This is what happened in the case of a former cruise line crew member who assaulted two girls in the UK. The assaults occurred during the 1980s, but due to the fact that the suspect had left his country and police could not locate him, the case was closed. It wasn’t until recently that one of the victims (remarkably) found the assailant, who had been living in Mississippi, through Facebook and suspect was arrested, extradited and charged in the UK.

But while the UK assailant was brought to justice, this is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. This if often because laws governing sexual attacks are not as strict in some countries, and many times, assailants are protected by their home country’s government or the cruise lines themselves, if the suspect is a crew member. From the cruise line’s standpoint, the negative press surrounding a sexual assault on a ship is enough to damage the line’s reputation, so often, cruise lines will choose to conceal the incident completely or provide only minimal details. This is especially true, given the fact that most sexual assaults on cruise ships occur because there is a dire lack of solid safety policies across the entire cruise industry. News of a sexual assault brings to light the negligence of the cruise line in failing to provide passengers a safe environment where they do not have to worry about their lives being threatened. Many onboard sexual attacks are prevtable if the cruise line would simply: a) perform more thorough background checks on individuals applying for crew member positions, b) actually monitor security cameras or hire a greater number of security personnel; and c) warn its passengers of the frequent problem of sexual assaults at sea.

Sadly, this will likely not occur anytime soon because of the absence of effective, stringent regulation over the cruise industry. Plus, where such a sharp discrepancy exists between what the US deems a crime and what other countries or cruise lines are willing to let slide, innumerable sexual assailants have avoided liability for the crimes they’ve committed.

For these reasons, it is absolutely imperative that anyone who has been sexually assaulted onboard a cruise ship – whether by another passenger or a crew member – contact a cruise ship rape lawyer who is well-versed in all maritime statutes and laws protecting the victims of sexual crimes. Sadly, cruise line policies and foreign governments will often protect the assailant, especially when the assailant is a crew member. The only way to ensure a sexual assault victim obtains justice is by consulting with an attorney who protects the victim, not those responsible for the crime.