What to Do When Your Vacation Turns Into a Nightmare: Sexual Assaults on Cruise Liners
The luxury cruise industry is an economic giant. Every year, hundreds of thousands of vacationers choose to spend their time off sailing the open ocean in the comfort, extravagance, and security of a luxury liner. These ships carry thousands of passengers—a typical cruise ship can hold over 2,000 passengers—to destinations around the world.
Unfortunately, the majestic advertisements for these vacations fail to report that in addition to the relaxation, parties, booze, and activities, passengers can also experience life-altering risks.
Cruises Increase Sexual Assault Risks
There are many potential injuries and discomforts that come with cruise ship travel. Anyone who follows the news knows about some of the hazards of a cruise vacation, such as viral outbreaks aboard ship. It’s less well known that cruise ship passengers also face the nightmarish risks of sexual assault and rape.
The cruise life is a perfect environment for predators to stalk, manipulate, and assault their victims as a result of the following:
- Concealment. Being able to get away from the tumult of city life is a cruise ship perk, but it is also a hazard. Although a ship’s occupancy can exceed 5,000 people, including crew, the huge size of the vessel still allows passengers and crew members to find quiet, shadowy areas to corner assault victims.
- Confinement. Although cruise ships are large, they are also confined. Cabins and communal areas generally have only one exit and are sound-proof to eliminate distractions. Again, in theory, this provides for more comfortable travel. However, it can also be used to keep victims from being able to leave dangerous situations or scream for help. You must also realize that crew members are also confined to close quarters for months on end, which can increase the likelihood of crew assaults.
- Entertainment. Cruises provide a variety of entertainment for all age groups. This can include anything from group activities to dance parties to the provision of large amounts of alcohol. All of these scenarios can benefit a predator. Child group activities can allow a predator to get to know your child and build trust, which can then be used to lure your child away from the group. Parties and drinking can help him manipulate victims into letting their guards down.
- The illusion of security. Vacationers on a cruise tend to relax and be carefree. They become dependant on the attentions of the crew and may well forget to take normal security precautions. This false confidence can prevent a passenger from recognizing a dangerous situation until it is too late.
Passenger Rights to a Recovery After a Cruise Ship Assault
In 2010, Congress passed legislation in response to the alarming number of cruise ship accidents, injuries, and sexual assaults. This law, known as the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA), specifically addresses passenger safety issues (including sexual violence prevention and victim response) by dictating the following passenger rights:
- The right to receive a security guide. If requested, the cruise line should provide you with a written summary of security procedures. These procedures should include descriptions on where to go and whom to speak with in the event of a crime, criminal law procedures for crimes committed in foreign waters, and a list of relevant U.S. embassy and consulate locations in docking countries.
- The right to have a sexual assault forensic exam. Cruise ships are required to have equipment and materials for performing a sexual assault or “rape kit” on board at all times. These materials should include forensic equipment to collect evidence, DNA, and photos of bruising and appearances to help prosecute the perpetrator.
- The right to confidentiality. When discussing your attack with a cruise line’s medical staff, counselors, security personnel, or other staff, all information given should remain confidential. This includes names, discoveries, or medical information disclosed during a sexual assault forensic exam.
- The right to seek help from a U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are outside the United States, the cruise line must help you contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for information on how to begin your recovery and pursue legal action. These State Department facilities do not provide legal support but can connect you with a variety of resources to help, wherever you are.
- The right to file an injury claim. When you have been injured or assaulted on a cruise ship, you have the right to file an injury claim against your attacker as well as against the cruise line. When a rape occurs, along with criminal liability, civil liability may also be attached to the cruise line. Depending on the circumstances, passengers can recover damages from a ship owner without showing any specific evidence that the owner’s negligence resulted in the assault.
Filing a Claim
Although you have the right to seek compensation for your assault, this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed closure. Many people do not realize that when they purchase their ticket, they’re essentially signing a contract with the cruise line. By purchasing the ticket, you agree to certain regulations and mandates. One of these regulations is when and where you can file a claim against the cruise line. In many cases, when filing a claim, you must file in a specific court—generally, in the state where the cruise departed. You also may have a limited amount of time to file. This timeframe can vary but will be outlined in the contract.
Don’t allow your attacker or the cruise line that was supposed to guarantee your safety get away with the harm they caused you or your family. Hire an experienced maritime attorney who will put his reputation on the line, to make sure you get the attention, support, and justice you deserve. Call attorney Steve Lee today and see how he can help you through one of the most difficult and traumatic experiences of your life. He believes you deserve more than cruise lines are apt to give…and you should too.