Dylan Cole Bloodsworth, who was referred to as a “serial rapist” by the prosecutor, has pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old during a cruise aboard a Carnival Cruise Line cruise ship, the Elation. The assault occurred last March.
This sad story which was highly publicized involved a 13-year-old who was travelling on the cruise ship with her family. She had agreed to go with Bloodsworth to his cabin under the pretense that he was going to retrieve a jacket. He then sexually assaulted the minor in yet another tragic case of a sexual assault on a minor occurring aboard a cruise ship.
These horrible stories we hear is a reminder to all parents who decide to take minor children on a cruise ship that sexual assaults and rapes do happen on cruise ships with a much greater frequency than ever was imagined by the general public. It has only been in recent years that there has been increased public awareness of crimes, including sexual assaults and disappearances, happening onboard cruise ships. The public attention has also resulted in Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety, which eventually led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act past in the year 2010 and signed into law by President Obama.
In this particular case, the sexual assault was not committed by a crewmember. It was committed by another passenger. We have also read recently of stories involving passengers engaging in the sale of drugs while onboard ship. One must be aware that the cruise ship has been compared to a small city, which would include the potential for all types of criminal activity that occurs in a city. In the past, passengers have come onboard cruise ships with a false sense of security, and have not expected that these types of crimes can occur onboard a cruise ship. Unfortunately, minor children have often been the victims of sexual assaults which are a direct result of the fact that these types of incidents have been kept out of the public eye for some period of time, resulting in the false sense of security passengers get when boarding a cruise ship.
Again, this is a reminder to be very careful when going onboard a cruise. One must consider all aspects of the cruise, not just the advertisement by the cruise ship companies about the beautiful ports they are going to travel to, and all of the fun activities onboard the ship. One must consider the availability of medical care, including the fact that the cruise ship company takes the position that the ship’s medical staff are independent contractors and that the cruise ship will deny liability for any negligence on the part of the medical staff. One must also consider the different ports the cruise ship is taking the passengers to. Are these ports safe? Has the cruise line warned the passengers of any criminal activity known in the particular areas of the ports they are travelling to? With respect to shoreside excursions and activities, are they safe? Are the operators of these shoreside excursions experienced and well trained? Is the equipment up to date and safe? Who regulates these shoreside excursions? Again, the cruise ship companies will allege that these shoreside excursions are provided by independent contractors and the cruise line will deny liability for any accidents that might occur during a shoreside excursion.
In addition, one must understand there is a potential for criminal activity, including sexual assaults onboard a cruise ship, and any minor children should be carefully supervised by the parents with this awareness.
As with any criminal activity that occurs aboard a cruise ship, there is also the problem of complex jurisdictional issues getting in the way of a proper investigation. One should be very aware of this also, and insist on getting the United States authorities involved promptly in any investigation, and do the best you can to preserve evidence and make sure that the cruise ship does not take any actions that will hamper an adequate and complete investigation. We have cases where passengers have disappeared during cruises, as well as crewmembers who have disappeared during cruises, and due to the lack of an adequate, prompt and thorough investigation, the mystery of the disappearance is not solved.
If you are involved in any type of incident aboard a cruise ship that causes any harm, you should immediately contact an experienced maritime attorney who can advise you on what courses of action need to be taken.
Our firm continues to be safety advocates for those harmed at sea. I have been handling maritime cases for almost thirty years, and the complexities of the jurisdictional issues and laws applicable to maritime incidents remains very challenging.