Back in February, the cruise ship sexual assault attorneys at our firm reported on a disturbing case involving a Holland America crew member who brutally beat, raped and attempted to murder a female passenger in her own cabin. Now, we have learned of another horrific sexual crime also involving a crew member. Shockingly, the attack was against an underage girl and aboard Disney Cruise Line, of all lines.
According to news reports, 36-year-old Ahmed Sofyan, of Jakarta, Indonesia, was arrested yesterday after molesting a 13-year-old girl aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship. The crew member was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment.
The alleged incident occurred while the Disney Dream was docked in Port Canaveral yesterday morning just after 8 am. Unlike other sexual crime cases, which may never get reported and for which victims may never obtain justice, Disney responded right away to the incident and contacted local and federal authorities upon first hearing of the terrible crime. We don’t yet know the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault, such as where it happened or what prompted the attack, but what we do know is that the way Disney handed the situation was on par with maritime laws regarding sexual crimes.
When a sexual crime occurs onboard a cruise ship, federal authorities must be notified as soon as possible. If docked, as the Disney Dream was, local authorities should be contacted as well. The suspect should be apprehended onboard and detained until authorities take over the case.
But in stark contrast to this case, a similar sexual assault onboard the exact same ship showed a rather apathetical response to an 11-year-old girl’s plight after being sexually assaulted. In both incidents, the ship was docked and in both, the assailant was a crew member. However, with last year’s case Disney reportedly refused to report the sexual assault incident.
In last year’s crime, the crew member, a 33-year-old waiter, molested the little girl on an elevator. According to the little girl’s testimony, the assailant groped her breasts over her clothes and kissed her on the mouth after cornering her in the elevator. Just eight minutes after the incident occurred, the little girl and her grandmother reported the crime to the Dream’s guest service’s crew. After the footage was reviewed, the crew confirmed the assault did in fact take place.
But even though the entire incident was caught on camera, Disney didn’t detain the suspect until HOURS later and didn’t report the crime until the next day, allowing the assailant to evade responsibility for his actions!
Unfortunately, cruise lines get away with disregarding laws on sexual crimes all the time. In fact, sexual assault is the most frequently occurring crime onboard cruise ships! A U.S. Senate forum last year, spearheaded by Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller, focused on sexual assault and other crimes that occur within the cruise industry and the industry’s lack of transparency in reporting these crimes. Only about 20 percent of cruise ship sexual assault cases are reported to the public. The government is working on establishing greater influence within the industry, since the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries has allowed cruise lines to avoid liability for sexual crimes and other types of crimes and accidents on the high seas.
Unfortunately, despite the attention that has been given to the lack of safety within the industry, some cruise lines continue to make repeated mistakes and fail to fully establish a secure onboard environment for their guests. Some lines focus on improving safety in the spirit of reducing accident rates, but crime rates cannot be ignored, as was so terribly demonstrated with yesterday’s sexual assault crime.
Disney reportedly did nothing to help the 11-year-old girl last year. But this time, it seems Disney learned its lesson and did what it was supposed to in notifying authorities right away. Yet, this latest assault just goes to show that cruise ship safety continues to be a back burner priority for the industry.