Should You Fear Danger of Sexual Assault While On A Cruise Ship?

sexual assaultI’ve been handling maritime cases since 1983, with a primary focus involving cruise ship litigation. I would say during the initial decade of my practice, we came across very few cases involving sexual assaults. As the cruise ship industry grew, ship’s got bigger, increased passenger and crew member capacity occurred, and so did an increased amount of incidents aboard cruise ships, including sexual assaults. The incidents included sexual assaults by a crew member on a passenger, sexual assaults by a passenger on another passenger, and sexual assaults by a crew member against another crew member.

As more cases started getting filed in court, the discovery process revealed that there were in fact an alarming number of sexual assaults that were occurring onboard cruise ships. The cruise ship industry was exposed to the United States Congress about their procedures and investigation methods as well as, and the procedures or laws regarding reporting to the authorities any reports of criminal activity, including sexual assaults.

I was a speaker before the United States Congress during congressional hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security. I was surprised that members of the Congress were surprised to learn that there were no mandatory reporting requirements that applied to cruise ship companies regarding criminal activity that was reported aboard their cruise ships. Several examples were provided to the United States Congress of cases where it appeared that a cruise ship company had deliberately engaged in attempts to sweep under the carpet reported incidents of criminal activity, including sexual assaults that were occurring onboard the ships.

Alarmed at the lack of mandatory reporting requirements, Congress started to investigate further and eventually the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act was passed on July 27, 2010 and signed into law by President Obama. This was the beginning of mandatory reporting requirements imposed on the cruise ship companies, as well as other mandatory requirements to increase safety for the passenger’s onboard ships with respect to criminal activity, including sexual assaults.

While the cruise ship company would argue that statistically the risk of a sexual assault occurring onboard a cruise ship is much less than that in a major city, the fact remains that although the cruise ship companies want to compare every cruise ship to a major city such is a misleading comparison. A cruise ship is a limited environment, and a much easier area to police and proactively prevent sexual assaults from occurring. My experience is the cruise ship companies resisted increasing the presence of police type employees, surveillance cameras and other measures that might deter sexual assaults, because it ran counter to the fun, carefree environment touted by the cruise ship industry.

Legislation has required some favorable safety measures, such as peepholes in the doors in passenger cabins so that a passenger can see who they are opening the door for. The mandatory reporting requirements are useful in that it will hopefully document more sexual assaults and make this information public, creating more awareness as to the potential danger of the sexual assault onboard a cruise ship.

I came across an interesting article titled SOS, “protect yourself against sexual assaults on a cruise ship”. Here is a link to the article which includes tips by the writer as to how you can protect yourself when going onboard a cruise ship from being the victim of a sexual assault.

Our firm continues to act as safety advocates for those harmed or injured at sea. We have represented many victims of sexual assaults onboard cruise ships, as well as other victims of crimes onboard cruise ships. Our firm focuses on serious injuries, including catastrophic injuries, suffered at sea.

If you, a loved one or friend, have been harmed at sea, whether on a cruise ship or other type of watercraft, you should contact a maritime lawyer as promptly as possible. There are very special laws that apply to incidents that occur at sea including very specific time limitations to file a claim, which that are shorter than other type of cases, and often times unknown by lawyers who are not familiar with maritime law.