Articles Posted in Sexual Assault

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Although cruises offer virtually unlimited access entertainment, activities, culinary delights, and tours, passengers can suffer serious physical and emotional injury when cruise line operators fail to provide adequate security.  Attacks against passengers and crew members that include rape, sexual battery, and other violent offenses occur on cruise ships and during shore excursions more often than you might think.  Cruise ships have a duty to properly screen their crewmembers to prevent hiring individuals prone to commit criminal acts and to implement security procedures to keep passengers safe.  Despite these duties, cruise lines sometimes fail to provide adequate security resulting in devastating consequences for cruise passengers.  In this blog, our cruise injury lawyers discuss a recent incident reported by the media demonstrating exactly the wrong way for a cruise line to handle a passenger who reports a criminal attack.

This tragic incident involved an accomplished violinist and competitive swimmer named Mary who was enthralled by the idea of cruises.  She collected cruise brochures when she would happen to pass a travel agency.  Her fascination with cruises suddenly turned dark when she suffered a sexual assault on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which was reported in the New Times.  While experiencing a sexual assault is a horrific event under any circumstances, the cruise line was so dismissive regarding the consequences of this passenger’s experience that they made they situation worse. Continue reading →

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When parents decide to take their family on a cruise, they do not anticipate their children will be exposed to sexual abuse.  Despite these expectations, you might not learn about such incidents from the cruise company when they occur.  In late January, a cruise employee allegedly enticed a teenage girl into performing a sex act.  According to a report by Local 10 News, a waiter aboard the Holland America cruise ship, MS Veendam, was arrested after he had a 15-year-old girl perform a sex act. The employee was charged with a lewd and lascivious act involving a minor.  The news source learned of the incident and reported it to the public.  The tactics used by the cruise line to avoid disclosing the incident focus attention on the difficult task of determining the risk of being the victim of a crime when deciding to take a cruise.

Our Miami cruise accident lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano know that most people that schedule a vacation on a cruise anticipate that the cruise company will implement adequate security measures.  Passengers also might be inclined to assume that the cruise line will elect to work with tour and recreation providers that screen their employees and adopt appropriate security practices.  Although these beliefs might seem reasonable, people are victims of crimes like rape, sexual assault, sexual molestation and other offenses on cruises each year.  Because certain cruise lines might be lax regarding security measures and protocols, travelers should investigate the security record of a cruise line before making a choice.  This task is not as easy as it might seem because of crime reporting practices in the cruise industry. Continue reading →

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The life of 28-year-old Tristin was changed forever when she was held down and raped repeatedly by two Carnival crew members.  She is far from alone.  It is estimated that over 150 cruise ship passengers have been raped since 2010. Many of these rapes were committed by cruise ship crew members.

The sheer number of crew member rapes and sexual assaults has spurred some investigative agencies to examine the attitude of staff members towards passengers.  Inside Edition took on the quest, sending a staffer on a four-night cruise. The undercover staffer spotted several instances of inappropriate contact between employees and passengers, including dancing, kissing, and propositioning.  In Part II of this two-part series, we discuss the issue of crew member rapes and sexual assaults, along with liability for these catastrophic happenings. Continue reading →

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Cruise ships offer fun for the whole family.  These floating vacation havens abound with pools, slides, parties, and more.  However, behind all these attractions and glee is the potential for danger.  Cruise ships bring together thousands of people in close quarters.  Cruise ship employees come from all different countries and walks of life, as to the passengers.  These conditions combine to present the risk of sexual assaults and rapes.  It is believed that hundreds of sexual assaults and rapes have occurred aboard cruise ships in the past few years.  Many sexual assaults go unreported and others are hidden from the public eye.

Liability for Cruise Ship Rapes

Cruise ship rapes and sexual assaults can be broken down into two categories:  those committed by employees and those committed by others. Many cruise ship sexual assaults involve cruise line employees, but some have occurred at the hands of other passengers or third parties.  In this segment, we discuss rapes perpetrated by non-employees.  We address employee rapes and sexual assaults in Part II of this two part look at cruise ship rapes and sexual assaults. Continue reading →

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Recently, a federal judge in New Jersey sentenced a former cruise ship crew member to 13 months in prison for sexually abusing a sleeping female passenger while aboard the ship.  The 26 year old defendant from Mauritius pled guilty to one count of abusive sexual conduct.  Prosecutors report that the defendant was employed by a cruise line and charged with restocking mini bars within passengers’ rooms.  As a part of his job description, he was provided with a key that gave him access to the guest rooms.

The defendant admits to entering a female passenger’s room while he was off-duty.  He proceeded to touch the woman inappropriately while she slept.  The former employee will now serve 13 months in prison with an additional year of supervised release.

Several Sexual Assaults and Rapes Have Occurred on Cruise Lines in Recent Years

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When people spend time planning a cruise and saving money to enjoy their excursion, passengers have many expectations.  These expectations almost certainly do not include becoming a victim of sexual assault.  Sadly, sexual assaults are more common on cruises than most travelers would care to imagine.  According to the FBI, sexual assaults are the dominant threat to women and minors on the high seas with the vast majority of the crimes occurring on cruise ships.  Approximately, 55 percent of crimes that the FBI investigate on the high seas are sexual assaults.  During one six month period, the federal law enforcement agency received reports of 41 sexual assaults with almost half involving activity typically characterized as rape.

Lack of Trained Law Enforcement Personnel Can Mean the Loss of Evidence

When you are the victim of a crime like sexual assault or rape on a cruise ship, you might have a legal claim for financial compensation from the cruise line.  When cruise passengers leave U.S. waters, they leave behind certain protections provided by U.S. law.  When you are the victim of a rape or other crime on a cruise ship, there are no police available to immediately secure the scene, obtain witness statements, and ensure that critical evidence is not destroyed.  While the cruise might have security employees, these individuals might lack law enforcement experience and forensic training.

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Last September, an ex-cruise ship employee pleaded guilty in a Miami federal courtroom to attacking, raping, and attempting to throw overboard a cruise line passenger because he believed the passenger had insulted his mother.  The victim was a 31 year old woman who was attacked while she slept aboard the cruise ship.  The woman reported to authorities that she lost consciousness several times while being attacked.  The brutal attack included punching, strangulation, and an attempt at forcible sex.  She was so severely injured that she had to be transported by helicopter to a South Florida hospital.

Cruise Ship Rape and Assault Statistics

            It is hard to compile accurate data as to the true number of rapes or sexual assaults that occur on cruise lines.  The most accurate numbers available suggests that there are about two reports of sexual assaults or rapes for every one hundred thousand passengers aboard commercial cruise lines.  During a five year period, this amounted to about 170 sexual assaults and rapes, most of which were not prosecuted and no one ever convicted.  While this number does not sound high, when you consider how briefly passengers are aboard cruise ships, it is alarming.

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During a recent hearing before the Senate, Laurie Dishman recalled her horrifying experience of being choked and raped aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise by one of the cruise line’s employees. Dishman shared her pain and humiliation during the 2006 attack, stating that cruise line staff were slow to act and discourteous in assisting her. Staff asked Dishman to collect her own evidence stemming from the attack and place it in trash bags. They did not transport her to the infirmary immediately, nor did they provide anti-retroviral medications. Our Miami cruise ship accident lawyers found that they did not even offer her another cabin in which to stay for the remainder of the cruise to Mexico. Dishman’s attacker was never arrested or tried in the U.S., despite an FBI investigation that ensued once the ship landed in the U.S.

In response to Dishman’s horror story and many others like it, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, introduced a bill last year to improve the safety of passengers on cruise ships. Senator Rockefeller believes the reason behind such attacks and accidents stems from a lack of oversight and accountability for the safety of passengers in the cruise industry. Rockefeller says that in spite of clear evidence of problems, including mechanical failures, crimes, drowning, and mishandled medical emergencies, occurring with regularity, the cruise ship industry continues to deny it has a problem.

The hearing held on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 was the second thus far, called to raise awareness to the problems plaguing the cruise industry and how the bill could address them. While cruise line officials appeared at the first hearing, none were present for the second.
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On board any major cruise ship, fun for the whole family abounds. Pools galore, water slides, and parties every night. But behind all that fun lies a danger that most cruise passengers do not really think about–sexual assault. Rape and sexual assaults are the dominant threat to women and minors on the high seas, with the majority of such attacks occurring on cruise ships. Our Miami cruise ship accident lawyers find that sexual assault is the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI, and at least 150 sexual assaults have occurred in cruise ships in the past four years. Many suspect the actual figure is far larger, as the lack of reporting of crimes that occur at sea has been under much criticism as of late. Miami is cited as one of the ports to see the largest number of sexual assault cases due to its sheer volume of departing and arriving cruises.

One 28 year old woman was raped aboard a Carnival cruise last year. She stated that two Carnival crew members held her down in their cabin and raped her repeatedly. After she ran to inform security, their first act was to administer a Breathalyzer. The crew members claim the sex was consensual, and though the woman admits she had a few drinks, she vehemently told security she had been violently raped and thought she might be killed.

As a result of the ordeal, the woman filed suit against Carnival and the cruise line responded with what has become standard for the industry–they denied any wrongdoing and claimed they took all appropriate measures to handle the situation. Unfortunately, the woman has become one of many sexual assault victims terrorized aboard a cruise ship at the hands of crew staff, and then further mistreated by the cruise employees who seem to offer little medical, psychological, and investigative assistance following an attack.
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When a person first boards a cruise ship, s/he is greeted by seemingly friendly and welcoming cruise ship employees who promise everyone an excellent time, regardless of how long they will be on board the ship. Many times, the crew is comprised of people from around the world, providing an international flare to the cruise, no matter where the ports-of-call are located. However, this diverse crew means that there may be people who are working on the cruise for the wrong reasons. Crime is a serious problem on board cruise ships and the vast majority of these crimes are not reported to the public.

Although there are conflicting reports about the number of serious crimes that happen on cruise ships, the fact is that passengers are seriously injured in violent crimes far more than most people realize. Sometimes, it is a crew member who attacks a passenger. With more than three decades of experience getting justice for clients, the Miami cruise ship accident lawyers of Greenberg Stone and Urbano are ready to fight for you if you suffered harm while on a cruise.

It is difficult to fully grasp the extent of the problem with violent crimes because the information is voluntarily reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Of the information that is provided to law enforcement, a small fraction is released publically. As part of an investigation into crime on board cruise ships, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.V) stated that there were approximately 960 crimes reported to the FBI from 2011 to 2013, but only 31 of these were actually released to the public. These sobering statistics demonstrate why most people assume it is completely safe to go for a cruise when there are many reasons to exercise caution. There is no strict reporting requirement because cruise ships are often registered outside the United State.
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