Sexual Assaults on Ships Are All Too Common

A number of witnesses recently appeared before a Senate transportation committee to discuss sexual assaults that take place on cruises. Those witnesses, many of whom were quite emotional, made it clear that sexual assaults are “far too common” on ships that serve ports in the United States. An experienced cruise ship rape lawyer is well aware that many cruise lines often mislead excited vacationers by lulling them into a false sense of security and safety while they are onboard the large “floating city” with others. However, those in attendance at the hearing heard in no uncertain terms that crime still exists—even when floating on the high seas.

According to recent reports, the Cruise Lines International Association, which disputes the claims of widespread sexual assaults on cruises, notes that approximately 22 million individuals vacation on these vessels every year. The Association did not send anyone to testify before the committee; however, it issued a statement to say that the hearing before the Senate presented a “distorted picture” of the safety record of the cruise industry. Still, the chairman of the National Center for Victims of Crime has stated that the risk of sexual crimes onboard ships is real and is getting higher.

Given the importance and seriousness of the issue, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013, aimed at improving passenger protection on cruise liners. This Senate hearing was intended to gather information and raise awareness of the exact problem. With pressure from victims (and members of Congress), some of the major cruise lines started to voluntarily post their crime data online back in August of 2013. Nevertheless, a lawyer knows that posting the data online is simply not enough. The sad and horrific stories heard during the committee hearing highlighted the fact that there seems to be a lack of concern for the safety of cruisers, and the cruise industry continues to fail to address the issues.

The Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Assaults

Unfortunately, very few liners enlist trained police officers to travel onboard and conduct proper investigations of sexual assault allegations. Sure, some well-intentioned crewmembers and trained security officers might be able to help with the investigation, but typically an adequate investigation is not done at all. The cruise ship’s security staff members usually are the only law enforcement aboard a ship until it reaches its next port of call (often in a foreign country). This is problematic because a delay in conducting a proper investigation can cause evidence to be lost or destroyed and essentially hinders the possibility of a fair investigation.

Additionally, delays in investigations can prevent many allegations of sexual assaults from ever reaching a courtroom. But if a sufficient amount of evidence is compiled to file a suit, then depending on the facts, the case will be heard either in a federal court or in the jurisdiction noted in the fine print of the passenger ticket.

If you or someone you love has been sexually assaulted and/or raped while onboard a ship, and you have questions about your rights, contact a cruise ship rape lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. right away.