It has been nearly a year since a teenage girl was gang-raped onboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship by a 31-year-old man and several teen boys, but today, she may finally obtain the justice she has been waiting for.
Casey Dickerson, 31-years-old at the time of the cruise ship rape, was convicted in December for his role in the sexual assault and rape of a 15-year-old cruise passenger aboard the Carnival Sensation in August. The sexual assailant is scheduled to be sentenced today in Orlando federal court Monday, but will the verdict favor the young rape victim?
The incident dates back to August 16, when Dickerson and his wife were sailing onboard the Sensation out of Port Canaveral. The couple requested a change of cabin after complaining they were hearing too much noise from their room. Carnival gave the couple keys to a second stateroom, but allowed them to keep the keys for the original cabin as well.
According to the young rape victim, she and another female friend met Dickerson and four teenage boys onboard the vessel and went back to one of the cabins with them, where she was held down as Dickerson and the boys took turns raping her. Her friend was held down by one of the boys in the stateroom’s bathroom.
When questioned about the incident, Dickerson claimed he was drunk and didn’t know that things had escalated to a sexual point. He denied any wrongdoing. However, after two days in trial, jurors returned a guilty verdict on two sex abuse charges Dickerson was facing.
After being arrested, Dickerson claimed he was drunk and did not remember what he had done, insisting he didn’t know the teenage boys that were also involved in the cruise ship gang rape. However, during the trial, one of the teen assailants testified that Dickerson asked the boys their ages and bought them four bottles of alcohol.
Another teen admitted that he saw a blood stain on the bedding that Dickerson tried to cover up and alleged Dickerson told him he had sex with the girl.
Dickerson was found guilty of raping the teen girl in December, and was also found to have encouraged the boys to do the same. If convicted today, he faces life in prison.
The boys have not been charged and their identities have not been revealed due to the fact that they are all minors.
As disturbing as this incident is, the Dickerson case is not the first instance of cruise ship rape recorded. In fact, sexual assault is the number one crime reported on the high seas.
In his tell-all book “Unsafe on the High Seas,” our maritime attorney Charles R. Lipcon reveals that of the 206 crimes that were reported aboard cruise ship ships between 2003 and 2006, a staggering 86 percent were sexual assaults.
But this isn’t even the most devastating fact.
Many cruise ship sexual assault and rape incidents go unrecorded because cruise lines fail to properly report the incident or fail to follow through with an investigation. When a sexual assault is found to have occurred onboard a cruise ship, the vessel’s operators may be found at least partially responsible for the crime for failing to provide a safe environment onboard. Cruise lines may try to cover up the incident and may even decide not to report the matter to authorities.
Because most cruise ships fly foreign flags, they can divert responsibility for investigating a crime to their flagged country’s authorities, avoiding liability for the case. But while this may work sometimes for minor incidents, a serious crime like rape must be reported to the FBI immediately or the line may face persecution.
Still, there are an unfortunate number of times in which cruise lines either do not report the case or delay in reporting the matter, allowing the assailant to avoid being caught. These sexual assault victims never obtain the justice they deserve because of one cruise line’s horrendous mistake.
Although cruise lines might not always help victims, it is important to report sexual crimes as soon as they happen in order to make sure sufficient evidence is obtained. Victims have a right to obtain legal help with a cruise ship rape lawyer in order to protect their rights and seek compensation for their pain and suffering.
Hopefully the cruise industry will work on ways to improve shipboard safety to prevent these types of incidents from occurring, but given what we know of the industry, this won’t likely happen any time soon.