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Rape / Sexual Assault on Cruise Ships – A Maritime Lawyer’s Analysis

Cruise Ship Rape Sexual Assult Attorney Lawyer.jpgRecently, there has been major legislation concerning the problem of rape and sexual assaults on cruise ships. On July 27, 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act into law. This act increases security, law enforcement, and cruise lines’ accountability for rapes and sexual assaults occurred on their cruise ships.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

The following rules will apply to all cruise ships that touch a United States port:

  • Installation of 42″ guardrails, peepholes in every passenger and crew member’s cabin door, on-deck video surveillance and an emergency sound system;
  • Reporting and information sharing structure between the cruise lines, Coast Guard, and FBI.
  • Each cruise ship is to maintain a log book that records all deaths, missing individuals, alleged crimes, and passenger/crewmember complaints regarding theft, sexual harassment, and assault;
  • Rape kits, anti-retroviral medications, and a trained forensic sexual assault specialist are to be aboard each ship; and,
  • Training appropriate crew members in crime prevention, detection, evidence preservation,
  • Cruise lines are to give passengers who are victims of rape access to a confidential 24-hour sexual assault hotline while on board the cruise ship.

Strict Liability

Maritime law holds Cruise Lines strictly responsible for the sexual assault / rape of their passengers by crew members employed aboard the vessel. This means the cruise line will still be liable even if the crew member did not have a history of such actions or the cruise line could not have prevented the attack. This, however, does not mean the victim will not face the inevitable questions regarding previous relationships, history of promiscuity, reasons for traveling on the cruise, alcohol consumed, dress attire, consent and the litany of usual additional inquires.

Damages

Though no amount of money can make up for being sexually attacked, as a victim of a sexual assault or rape aboard a cruise ship you are entitled to compensation for medical treatment, pain and suffering, mental and emotional anguish and other injuries experienced in the past or likely to be experienced in the future.

What to Do If Sexually Assaulted or Raped

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) recommends the following if sexually assaulted or raped:

  1. Find a safe environment – anywhere away from the attacker. Ask a trusted friend to stay with you for moral support.
  2. Know that what happened was not your fault and that now you should do what is best for you.
  3. Report the attack to the authorities. If you want more information, a counselor on the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE can help you understand the process.
  4. To preserve evidence of the attack – don’t bathe or brush your teeth.
  5. Write down all the details you can recall about the attack & the attacker.
  6. Get medical attention. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the risks of STDs and pregnancy.
  7. To preserve forensic evidence, ask the hospital to conduct a rape kit exam.
  8. If you suspect you may have been drugged, ask that a urine sample be collected. The sample will need to be analyzed later on by a forensic lab.

If you know that you will never report the incident, there are some things you should still consider:

  • Recognize that healing from rape takes time.
  • Give yourself the time you need. Know that it’s never too late to call.
  • Even if the attack happened years ago, the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) or the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline can still help. Many victims do not realize they need help until months or years later.

Additional Information


Click here for additional information concerning your rights if sexually assaulted or raped while aboard a cruise ship.