The recent sentencing of a Holland America crew member who raped and attempted to murder a female passenger aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam on Valentine’s Day, 2014, has raised several concerns over the safety of cruise ships, the efficacy of cruise line background screenings, and whether or not a victim of cruise ship rape can ever truly obtain justice, even when the assailant is caught and sentenced, as this particular crew member was.
The crew member, an Indonesian man named Ketut Pujayasa, was sentenced to over 30 years in prison in a Broward County Federal Court. Pujayasa admitted to his crimes, explaining he committed the heinous crimes after believing the victim had insulted him. Pujayasa obtained a master key to open the victim’s stateroom, where he waited for hours in her balcony until she returned. It was then that he proceeded to violently assault and sexually abuse her, before attempting to throw her overboard from the balcony. Miraculously, the victim escaped. She was present in court when the sentence was passed, but while it appears that a fair sentence was handed down, there is nothing that can erase the unspeakable pain she has suffered.
The damage incurred from the sexual assault and attempted murder can never be completely undone, and the victim continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress. Yet, despite the fact that sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships, the cruise industry continues to downplay the issue and has yet to incorporate an effective way to both handle and prevent these horrific crimes from happening.
According to a statement issued by Holland America, the company says it was “relieved to see justice prevail” after the sentencing. But how far does justice extend? Shouldn’t real justice entail the prevention of the actual crime?
Cruise lines have yet to hire trained police officers for security positions on board ships, and those who do hold security positions often overlook key evidence in sexual crimes as well as the signs that present themselves before a crime is about to unfold. As a result, many assailants are often either released because of a lack of evidence or are not caught at all. Cruise lines also often take their time to investigate a sexual assault claim, which can also allow plenty of time for a perpetrator to get away.
So while the perpetrator was caught and sentenced in this particular case, in reality, there’s nothing that can assuage the trauma that a victim of sexual assault has to deal with. And unfortunately, some victims never even have the opportunity to find at least some semblance of peace in knowing their attacker was caught. This is why it is absolutely critical for any sexual crime victim to consult a cruise ship rape lawyer for help in determining their options and protecting their rights. It is rare that a perpetrator is caught after a crime on board a ship, and even rarer for a cruise line to take responsibility for the incident, even if the crime resulted from the cruise line’s own failure in providing a safe shipboard environment. An experienced attorney can, however, fight for the rights of the victim and help ensure their right to justice is upheld.
Though sexual crimes can happen in the blink of an eye, there are a few ways passengers can avoid becoming the victims of sexual assault on a cruise ship, including:
- Limit the amount of alcohol intake – Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can increase the chances a passenger may find themselves in a perilous situation, without the ability to fully defend themselves.
- Monitor drinks at all times – Many sexual predators drug passenger drinks to make it easier to attack.
- Avoid secluded areas – The majority of cruise ship assaults occur in non-crowded areas and hidden corridors.
- Never let another passenger or crew member into your stateroom – Though you might be having a good time with new friends, you should limit interaction with strangers to public areas on the ship.
- Always travel in groups – Sexual predators tend to target single travelers, so be sure to travel in a large group or at least one other friend/family member to reduce the likelihood of an attack.
While shipboard safety may not be 100 percent guaranteed, at least by following these tips you can lessen your chances of becoming a victim of cruise ship assault.