Sexual assault is a recurring problem in the cruise industry – a problem the public isn’t usually made privy to. When guests board a cruise ship, the last thing on their minds is whether their own safety should be questioned. They never think they will have to look over their shoulders at every turn, wondering whether or not they will be attacked, robbed or pushed overboard. They never worry about covering their drinks because another passenger or a crew member might slip something in it to get them to black out. But unfortunately, the truth is they should be keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.
Statistics show that cruise ship sexual assault and rape is the number one reported crime on the high seas. Anyone can be a target, including young children, and the assaults can occur both onboard a vessel as well as ashore. It is critical that any cruise traveller understand the dangers they face and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from harm, including travelling in large groups and refraining from entering isolated areas and corridors on ships. But even the most prepared of passengers can be the target of a sexual crime.
Sometimes, assailants are brought to justice, but because cruise lines are often able to sweep situations under the proverbial rug due to passenger ticket contract clauses and the fact that most ships are registered in foreign ports, many sexual assailants are never held accountable for their crimes. And even then, that ones that do sometimes still manage to weasel their way out of the repercussions of their crimes.
Just recently, a 43-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting a cruise ship passenger is now a wanted man, after breaching his bail contract. The suspect, a Cayman Islands tour boat company manager, was charged in the 2012 with the sexual assault of a cruise ship passenger now just days before his trial was scheduled to take place he has disappeared.
According to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the suspect, Shawn Mourao, is scheduled to be in court on Oct. 28, and if he doesn’t show up for his hearing, a warrant will be issued for his arrest. Though authorities are not stating Mourao’s whereabouts, it is possible the assailant tried to skip town to avoid facing the charges brought against in for sexually assaulting a cruise ship passenger.
Charges were filed against the tour boat operator last year after Mourao attempted to sexually assault a cruise ship passenger in George Town. Three counts of indecent assault were filed against Mourao in the U.S. after the victim, a New Jersey woman, filed a federal lawsuit against him claiming he sexually assaulted her during a beach and snorkelling shore excursion she paid for as part of her cruise vacation in the summer of 2012.
Once the shore excursion ended, the woman asked the tour boat captain where she might find a restroom, and Mourao directed her to a nearby shopping center, took her into a small room on the property and attempted to rape her.
Half-clothed, the woman was able to escape and find a friend she had gone on the excursion with and she was later evaluated by the ship’s onboard physicians.
That same summer, Mourao was arrested on suspicion of attempted rape. The victim is seeking $2 million in damages from Cayman Style Ocean Adventures, the tour company, as well as from Mourao himself.
Hopefully the victim will obtain justice for this assailant’s travesties.
Even when the perpetrator of this crime was not a cruise line employee, because the excursion was promoted by the cruise line, the cruise company may be held at least partially liable for the incident because the line sponsored the excursion. Cruise lines are well-aware of the consequences of sponsoring shore excursions and build into the tour contract and the shore excursion agreements safeguards to protect themselves. This is the main reason why it is critically important any cruise passenger who has been sexually assaulted or suffered any other serious harm while on a cruise or a shore excursion booked through a cruise turn to a maritime attorney for assistance right away. An experienced lawyer can help the victim file a case against the all the potentially liable and recoverable parties such as the perpetrator, cruise line, the shore excursion company and can almost always help the injured victim them obtain justice for their ordeal.