Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Sexual Assault?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

cruise ship sexual assaultThe reality of cruise ship sexual assault crimes and how to protect yourself as a passenger.

Generally, when someone embarks on a cruise vacation, the furthest thing from their minds is the likelihood that they’ll become the victims of a crime; let alone one of such magnitude as sexual assault. Unfortunately, the threat of cruise ship sexual assault and rape crimes is higher than prospective travelers might imagine. Sexual crimes are among the most frequently occurring crimes on the high seas, which means that anyone aboard a cruise ship can potentially become a target.

But should cruise passengers spend a lot of time worrying about the possibility of cruise ship sexual assault crimes?

While it’s always important to keep your guard up and maintain a lookout for any suspicious activity on a ship, cruise passengers shouldn’t have to barricade themselves in their cabins either. The best way to prevent a sexual assault or rape crime is to become as informed as possible regarding statistics, cruise laws, and your options – both in how to protect yourself and how to ensure your rights are upheld.

Let’s start with statistics. As the popular saying goes, “knowing is power.” One of the best ways to lower your chances of becoming the victim of a cruise ship sexual assault crime is to do some research before booking your itinerary. Review the safety record of the cruise lines you are interested in traveling with, as well as their history of sexual assault crimes. In addition, it’s a good idea to look up sexual crime statistics on each of the ports you’ll be sailing to and how the governments in each of these nations handle sexual crimes. The laws in foreign countries aren’t usually as strict as those in the United States when it comes to prosecuting sexual assailants – or even investigating allegations, so knowing what you can expect ahead of time can help you make a swift decision should you find yourself in a threatening situation.

Much like how the laws in foreign countries regarding sexual crimes can be ambiguous or subpar, the laws governing cruise lines can also be blurred. Though cruise lines have a responsibility to maintain safety  on their ships to the best of their ability, and to do everything within reason to quickly report a sexual crime, many assailants are able to evade prosecution. Why? Because many times, cruise operators fail to report allegations, fail to preserve evidence at the crime scene, and fail to take responsibility for crimes, even when they may be at fault (or partially fault) for harboring a less-than-safe shipboard environment. In fact, data released by four of the world’s largest cruise lines in 2013 revealed that there’s a huge discrepancy in cruise ship rape crime reporting. Cruise lines tend to underreport these types of crimes – if not completely fail to notify authorities – because they know they may be found liable.

Still, it’s important for cruise passengers to know that the laws are on their side. Anyone who has suffered an attack by a sexual predator has the right to come forward and report the crime, the right for the allegations to be investigated, and the right to seek legal counsel with an experienced cruise ship sexual assault lawyer. If a victim doesn’t feel as though the cruise line is doing enough to help them, they also have the right to reach out to the FBI and/or the Coast Guard on their own to report the matter.

Aside from knowing what to expect on board and ashore, cruise passengers can take matters into their own hands when it comes to increasing their safety. For example, traveling in numbers, avoiding dark and hidden ship hallways, and keeping a close eye on drinks and food to ensure they are not spiked by sexual predators are just a few of the many tactics passengers can employ to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of cruise ship sexual assault.