High-End River Cruise Company Sued for Alleged Rape of 17-Year-Old Girl

MIAMI, Florida– We have repeatedly reported about the problem of sexual assaults and rapes occurring on cruise ships, focusing mainly on the big cruise ship companies Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.  According to recent reports, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a 17-year-old girl who was allegedly raped aboard a river cruise that ran along the upper part of the Irrawaddy River, just north of Thailand, last year. One of the bartenders aboard the ship is alleged to have committed the sexual assault.

myanmar-300x225It is reported that the sexual assault occurred on the last day of the cruise, in a bathroom aboard the ship.  The lawsuit filed alleges that the cruise company did not take adequate precautions to protect the 17-year-old, despite knowledge of the problem of sexual assaults occurring on board cruises. It is also alleged that during the cruise, the bartender had been stalking the 17-year-old girl.

There was an interesting provision in the river cruise company passenger contract, which required that mediation take place prior to any lawsuit being filed. In this case, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit reported that the cruise company did not respond to demands for the mediation, so suit was filed. Whether the mediation requirement can be enforced or not is another issue. Most likely mediation will be unenforceable.

The river cruise company, originally a New York company but now based in Colorado, offers high-end river cruises on four different continents. The company is owned by Group Voyagers, known as the “Globus family of brands.” The company represents itself to be the largest tour operator worldwide, with about 500,000 passengers yearly

This horrible attack is sadly one of many cases of sexual assaults and rape we hear about on cruises.  In the past, sexual assaults went unreported. It was believed that cruise ship companies deliberately swept under the carpet as much as possible the number of sexual assaults and rapes occurring on cruise ships in order to maintain their public image and not hurt future sales.

In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which put into effect legislation addressing problems with the cruise ship industry not reporting crimes, addressing sexual assaults specifically.  The legislation required mandatory reporting of sexual assaults that occur on the cruise ships, as well as other measures dealing with handling a rape, such as making available rape treatment kits as well as means for the victim to properly report the crime so that it can be properly investigated.

Despite passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, some believe there is still not enough teeth in the legislation, as the cruise ship industry escape a lot of the United States laws and regulations because of the fact that it flies foreign flags and incorporates in foreign countries. The public must be aware of the dangers of sexual assaults on cruise ships, and there must be stronger legislation to require the cruise ship company to implement all reasonable precautions available to eliminate, or at the very least reduce, the number of sexual assaults on cruises.

In addition, once a sexual assault does occur, the public must be made aware of the available means to report the crime to the appropriate authorities, and the cruise ship companies must also have a duty to properly report the crime, as well as preserve all of the evidence, and appropriately deal with the very sensitive issues presented with the victim of an alleged sexual assault. Many times, the cruise ship companies, in response to a reported alleged sexual assault, will question the victim instead of realizing the person is a victim, and needs to be dealt with in a very specialized way, requiring professional attention as soon as possible. The cruise lines must not put their self interests ahead of the rape victim, concerned simply with an investigation in order to protect itself from liability.

We  have advocated for increased legislation and regulation in the industry in order to address the problem of sexual assaults on board cruise ships, including better practices in the hiring of the crew from all over the world, more security on board the ships with a visible presence, increased surveillance cameras, as well as increased warnings to the passengers and crew about sexual assaults and the consequences if a perpetrator is caught. In the past, publicity regarding sexual assault cases usually pointed out that the perpetrator was not successfully prosecuted, mostly because of the difficulty with the jurisdictional issues involving the international nature of the cruise ship industry, as well as the fact that many times the perpetrator was not a United States citizen, and the vessel was in international waters.

If you are planning  a cruise vacation in the future, you should research the different cruise lines, and whatever available data you can find regarding safety issues you may encounter during the cruise, including criminal activity such as sexual assaults. If you are traveling with a minor child, you must be very careful to not leave them unattended.