Trial Begins for Teen Who was Allegedly Unlawfully Strip Searched on Carnival Sensation

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

The issue of cruise ship sexual assault and rape has been a recurring problem across cruise lines for many years. Incidents involving any form of sexual harassment, molestation or rape occur frequently, and unfortunately, due to stipulations that cruise lines impose to protect themselves, cases are not always reported or investigated as thoroughly as they should. To this day, sexual assault is the most commonly occurring cruise ship crime, with a whopping 86 percent of the 206 crimes that were reported between 2003 and 2006 being sexually related. And if these are just the figures for incidents that are brought to light, who knows just how many more victims have suffered at the hands of a sexual predator on a cruise ship and been to traumatized or ashamed to report it.

Cruise ship sexual assailants can be either passengers or crewmembers, and the same applies for victims. But regardless of who is the offender and who is the victim of the offense, cruise lines have repeatedly failed to properly investigate sexual crime cases, leading assailants to escape prosecution and leaving victims without justice.

Although cruise companies themselves often fail to help victims obtain justice, anyone who was sexually assaulted on a cruise ship has the right to turn to a cruise rape lawyer for assistance in filing a claim against the line. Cruise operators are required under maritime law to provide everyone onboard their vessels with a safe environment, and any sexual crime is a gross violation of this right. The line involved in the incident may be found at least partially to blame for the crime and may be held liable for providing damages to victims.

We should soon see what the jury decides regarding one very disturbing case of sexual assault onboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship. The plaintiff, a young cruise ship sexual crime victim, sued Carnival claiming the “Fun Ship” company failed to offer her protection from “an unlawful strip search” that took place onboard the Carnival Sensation in 2011, when she was only 17 years old.

The case went to trial Monday, with “J.G.” the alleged sexual crime victim whose real name was withheld because she was a minor when the incident occurred, charging she was subjected to a strip and cavity search during a four-day cruise in April 2011. The three crewmembers who were involved in the matter have acknowledged the search, which was conducted by a female security officer after the victim was accused of having possession of marijuana.

Yet, while Carnival acknowledged the incident did occur, the line is working hard to prove the strip search was completely lawful and warranted.

Referring to the appalling strip and cavity search as a mere “pat down,” Carnival issued a statement regarding the case.

“The pat down was conducted in accordance with widely accepted police and security procedures, including the female security officer wearing gloves and not touching any private areas,” read the statement. “The officer has worked for Carnival for more than a decade with an ‘unblemished record’.”

The issue began after J.G., her family and a friend boarded the Sensation following a stop in the Bahamas. A security guard discovered a bag of marijuana in the elevator J.G. was riding in and proceeded to blame her for possession of drugs. The security officer, along with the female crewmember and another male housekeeping manager, then proceeded to enter the cabin where J.G. and her friend – who was also a minor – were staying and began searching the stateroom for illicit substances.

After no trace of drugs was found, the crewmembers allegedly “threatened, coerced, and required J.G. to remove her panties, lift her dress to her waist and expose her nakedness to all agents in the cabin” and proceeded to strip and cavity search the minor. J.G. was even allegedly told to remove a tampon for the cavity search and was forced to urinate in front of the crewmembers.

However, the horrendous incident doesn’t stop there. J.G. was then escorted off the vessel with her mother and was placed in an adult cell in the Bahamas, where she claims she was assaulted. Once released, the victim and her mother had to find their own transportation home.

Carnival claims the passenger ticket contract allows crewmembers to execute a search when probable cause is presented, but just how far will the cruise line go to conceal a blatant violation of a passenger’s rights?

Because most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries, criminal investigations are usually left in the hands of that country’s government, making it extremely difficult for victims to obtain justice and allowing cruise lines to wash their hands of the blame. But while the cruise ticket may give certain leeway to the lines, it does not limit the line’s liability for its crew’s negligence and/or criminal activity.

J.G. is suing Carnival for negligence, as well as fraud and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for her pain and suffering.