Traveling on a cruise should be a pleasant experience. The image presented by cruise companies is one of maximum relaxation in exotic locales, top-tier service, and on-shore adventures that will create memories to last a lifetime. Yet, for some unfortunate passengers who become the victims of sexual assault, their cruise experience is more akin to a nightmare.
Our cruise ship rape lawyers here at LMAW hear of assault reports on a vessel more often than anyone can imagine. What’s even more disheartening is the fact that many victims do not obtain the justice they deserve. Some victims are so struck with fear of their attacker that they don’t report the crime, while other times, reporting the incident still doesn’t do much when cruise lines sweep incidents under the proverbial rug. Then, there are victims who may not even realize they are, in fact, victims.
When people hear the term “sexual assault”, many think that the term refers to unwanted forced sexual contact. The image the term conjures is one of extreme physical violence and trauma. While some acts of cruise ship sexual assault are indeed physically violent, sexual assault can take on many forms.
Aside from physical acts of violence, sexual assault can include any number of unwanted advances. It can include lewd verbal commentary or any act that forces an individual to participate in an unwanted sexual experience or endure unwelcome. For instance, voyeurism is considered an act of sexual assault. Exhibitionism (or public exposure) is also form of sexual assault.
Sexual harassment, which can involve anything from commenting on a person’s attire to making jokes about someone’s sexual orientation (among several other actions), is also a form of sexual assault. In fact, sexual harassment is much more prevalent on cruise ships than anyone might think. Though many might believe that sexual harassment is limited to the workplace, in reality, many cruise passengers are faced with unwanted pressure for sexual acts or favors, as well as uninvited sexual remarks, gestures, or other non-verbal exchanges.
Did you know that being pressured to go on a date is also considered sexual harassment? Cruise vacations can be a great way to meet other people, but if you’ve already said no to a cruise ship crew member or fellow passenger who has shown interest, but are still pursued, repeatedly asked on a date, or even threatened if you don’t reciprocate their advances, it is important to know that you have a right to be left alone.
Anyone, be it a crew member or fellow passenger, who doesn’t honor your wishes after you have explicitly asked for the advances to stop are committing acts of sexual harassment, and therefore, an act of sexual assault.
Passengers have a right to enjoy a harassment-free experience, free of unwanted sexual comments or advances from both crew members and other passengers. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to assess when someone has crossed the line, and some passengers may be inclined to let assault slide rather than report it.
Sadly, many cruise ship sexual assault cases go underreported, and sometimes, it’s because victims don’t actually realize they are victims and therefore, don’t realize they have a right to fight back legally. Though there have been many cases of cruise ship sexual assault that have been reported, cruise assault data doesn’t take into account the number of sexual assault instances that involve sexual harassment and unwanted advances.
So, what should you do if you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment while on your cruise vacation? The first step is to report it immediately. Don’t hesitate. If the advance, comment, gesture, or behavior makes you feel uncomfortable, you have a right to protect yourself and report the matter to cruise staff. Next, you may want to consider contacting a cruise ship sexual assault lawyer, who can help you understand your rights and determine whether or not you have a viable claim.
Sexual assault can take many forms, but it’s important for victims to know they have a right to seek justice.