Sexual assault and rape is an extremely serious crime that affects not only the victim, but their families in ways that cannot be imagined. But while these types of cases occur frequently on land, the frequency with which sexual offenders are targeting passengers on cruise ships is even more alarming. Cruise ship rape is the number one crime on cruise ships.
Our cruise ship rape attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have witnessed and represented many victims who have been sexually assaulted while onboard a vessel or ashore. As with all other crimes, cruise lines have a responsibility to protect everyone onboard a ship from sexual crimes by providing an overall safe environment, with sufficient warnings and security; and by reporting incidents as soon as they occur. Under U.S. Maritime Law, cruise operators are required to contact the FBI if the victim is a U.S. citizen and if the vessel sailed out of a U.S. port, which most major cruise lines do. Unfortunately, cruise lines often either fail to report sexual crimes – usually by pressuring the victim to agree not to press charges against the assailant and allow the cruise line to “handle” the matter internally – assuring the guest the appropriate person(s) will be fired. The result of this generally is to provide the cruise line the opportunity to disembark assailant and repatriate them to their home country so they may avoid prosecution. This, in our view, has become a common practice for cruise lines because of the cruise lines’ desire to control negative media surrounding the incident which may impact the line’s reputation.
There have been cases in which a sexual assault or rape victim on a cruise ship was never able to obtain the justice they deserve for their pain and suffering. Aside from the under-reporting of cases by the cruise lines, the victims themselves are often afraid to come forward out of fear their attacker will retaliate. Many sexual offenders threaten victims, telling them they will come after them and their loved ones if they report the incident, leaving victims to suffer in silence. Then there are times when a victim tries to report the matter to cruise authorities only to be re-victimized by the ship’s officers. These are all very real scenarios that have occurred before, but hopefully now that more attention is being given to the industry for the recent increase in accidents and crimes, victims will gain the courage to come forward to and protect their rights with the help of cruise ship rape attorneys.
Luckily, one teen who was attacked by a sexual offender on a cruise line last month was brave enough to report the incident but will she be able to obtain justice for the terrible wrongs that were committed upon her?
The victim, an 18-year-old woman, claims she was raped onboard the Carnival Dream in early June by a 19-year-old man. According to the victim’s testimony, she was having drinks at the ship’s club with the assailant, who was also a passenger on the Carnival Dream, on June 4 while the ship was sailing to St. Thomas. The offender then invited the victim back to his cabin, where the victim alleges he began to kiss and touch her, eventually pulling up her dress, taking off her underwear and raping her.
Because the man was drunk, the victim says she was able to push him and run out of the room.
Once she reported the matter to cruise personnel, Carnival says an investigation was quickly launched and that the FBI and other authorities were immediately contacted. FBI officials boarded the vessel once it docked in St. Thomas and conducted their own investigation into the cruise ship rape allegations, which led to the man’s arrest.
Because the Virgin Islands are an unincorporated territory of the United States, the offender was able to be tried under U.S. jurisdiction, before the United States District Court in St. Thomas.
Unfortunately, justice may still be a long way off for the young rape victim. The offender pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the crime in court on July 18 and even before appearing in court, was allowed to post bond (a measly $10,000) and was released to return back to his home in Kentucky. As a condition of his release, the suspect must provide DNA samples for the ongoing investigation.
According to Carnival’s statement on the incident, the line is working closely with authorities and is providing “full support and assistance” to the FBI and other law enforcement officials.
It is worth noting that many of the cruise ship rape and sexual assault cases that have occurred throughout the years have taken place on Carnival ships, including one of our earliest cases dealing with cruise rape, a young woman who was raped by a Carnival Cruise Line crew member in 1999, when she was only 12 years old and the cruise line did nothing about it. We were able to obtain just compensation for this victim and many, many others that unfortunately followed her in subsequent years. Cruise ship sexual assaults, in our view, is an increasing problem – despite our many successes in obtaining compensation for the victims. Perhaps our perspective of the problem increasing is a function of more victims coming forward.
And perhaps more victims coming forward is, in part, due to one of our early sexual assault clients. She is a champion because, although nothing can take away the suffering she underwent at such a young age, she has since used her story as a way to reach out to other victims in hopes of inspiring them to come forward as well as to increase awareness of sexual assault crimes on the high seas. More details on her story can be found on her site, cruiserape.com.
It is understandable that any sexual assault victim may be afraid or embarrassed to come forward and report the incident, but it’s crucial that all victims understand that the law is on their side. Our cruise ship rape attorneys work diligently to hold all parties responsible for a cruise ship sexual crime liable for their negligence and wrongful actions and hope that victims understand that these terrible crimes can be brought to court. Although nothing can erase the terrible pain suffered at the hands of a sexual offender, victims may be entitled to compensation for the crime and can take at least some comfort in knowing that coming forward with their stories can help bring offenders to justice and protect future cruise passengers from similar crimes.