Cruise Rape News

Rape Culture on the High Seas

Charles Lipcon, a maritime attorney, recently told Fox 11 News about the increase in number and frequency of cruise ship rape cases coming across his desk. He believes the biggest problem is cruise ships that do not fly the American flag. Cruise ships that fly the American flag must meet a list of criteria in order to keep their status:

The ship must come from a United States shipyard.
The crew must have a staff of people from the United States, paid based on the US minimum wage laws.
A US company must own the ship and must register it in the US.

Currently, there are no shipyards operating in the United States that build cruise ships, so there can’t legally be any US-flagged cruise ships. This means that cruise ship companies must comply with the laws of the country where they register their ship.

Countries like the Bahamas, Panama, and Liberia compete for cruise ships to register with them because it means incoming revenue. In an effort to look most appealing, these countries loosely regulate what happens on board the cruise ships. They often turn a blind eye to crimes and the rape culture that happens at sea in an effort to get more business.

Another problem on board is excessive alcohol consumption. Cruise ships are taking steps toward safer alcohol consumption on board by introducing various programs.

Fox 11 News

Video Transcript:

MS. DEVINE: We’re heading into the peak season for cruise ships. And as millions of people plan their cruises, the industry is taking steps to clean up its image and improve cruise ship security. Phil Shuman takes another look at cruise ship crime.

MR. SHUMAN: For Kimberly Dean Edwards turning 40 was hard to face.

MS. EDWARDS: You know, the big 4-0 for a woman is a little tough.

MR. SHUMAN: So her husband planned a romantic cruise, but Edwards says her dream vacation went terribly wrong.

MS. EDWARDS: What I thought was going to be harmless, ended up going from harmless to sexual assault. So I was just shocked. Just totally shocked.

MR. SHUMAN: She says a drunk passenger sexually assaulted her in a cruise ship ladies’ room.

MS. EDWARDS: As you go through the process in trying to seek justice. You go from shock and sorrow into just sheer-out anger. I’m just not the same person — jovial person that I used to be.

MR. SHUMAN: John Mizener said he’s also a shadow of his former self.

MR. MIZENER: Couldn’t hold a job. Lost my job.

MR. SHUMAN: For nearly three years he’s been trying to get answers. His wife Annette simply disappeared off a cruise ship in the Mexican Riviera.

MR. MIZENER: I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was just — we never even got to say bye to her.

MR. SHUMAN: And they are not alone. These are faces posted on a website of alleged cruise victims. George Smith who also disappeared. A couple from Los Angeles, Hue Phan and Hue Tran missing without a trace. For three decades these are stories that Charles Lipcon has been hearing as a leading maritime law attorney.

MR. LIPCON: I see a lot of cases that are coming in and, you know, I see the frequency and the increase in the numbers. The increase in the heinousness of the crimes, but each answer cost money.

MR. SHUMAN: Lipcon believes the biggest problem continues to be the fact that these ships don’t wave the American flag.

MR. LIPCON: These ships all are registered in foreign countries, and they fly foreign flags of convenience. So they’re regulated by the Bahamas, or Panama or Liberia. These countries all compete with each other in order to get this business. In one way they compete is by leaving the ship owners’ alone. So there’s very little oversight.

UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: On February 21st.

MR. SHUMAN: Recent congressional hearings put the cruise industry in the hot seat. Here, a passenger testifies how she was repeatedly raped last year by a cruise ship employee.

UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: I tried to resist my mind with him forcing me down and keeping me from moving until I became unconscious. The terror of that experience still overwhelms me.

MR. SHUMAN: And this website, International Cruise Victims, chronicles news reports as more and more passengers come forward. But now, for the first time, since FOX 11 has been reporting on these ongoing problems the cruise industry says it’s doing something. In recent months major cruise lines, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean say they’ve improved security. They’ve beefed up their staff. They’ve added digital video surveillance technology. Even grief counselors. They’ve also begun programs, like ServSafe aimed at reducing excessive alcohol consumption which is often a big problem aboard ship.
Here, in Kimberly Dean Edwards FBI report, a passenger who allegedly assaulted her says he was, quote, too intoxicated to remember anything that happened that entire day. And earlier this month members of the cruise industry voluntarily met face to face with cruise crime victims at a symposium in Atlanta designed to hear victims’ stories firsthand. Edwards says she’s encouraged by the changes the industry is making.

MS. EDWARDS: But there are changes being made in the industry and this does give a lot of the ICV members, including myself, hope that by coming out, telling our stories, we are seeing an industry make
changes that are long overdue.

MR. SHUMAN: Stories that are painful for the victims to tell, but stories they hope would lead to smoother sailing for everyone. Phil Shuman, FOX 11 News.

MS. DEVINE: Cruise ship crime victims plan to testify before congress again in September. The Senate may also be opening its own investigation this fall.