The Problem of Rape Aboard Cruise Ships
Those of us who have worked as maritime attorneys understand that cruise ships do, in fact, have a problem with sexual assault. In some cases, establishing jurisdiction can be a major headache. In at least one recent case, a Spanish judge allowed an 18-year-old Italian man to walk free after raping a 14-year-old British girl. The case made international headlines and underlined some of the difficulties when trying to bring charges against predators who commit crimes over international waters.
While murders aboard cruise ships are rare, sexual assaults are not. According to the U.S. government, sex crimes constitute the largest category of serious violent crimes reported aboard cruise ships. According to at least one article, of the 92 alleged crimes reported aboard cruise ships, 62 (or 70%) were sex crimes. Worse still, many of the victims were minors. Even more disturbing is that many sex crimes go unreported.
The Cruise Ship Environment and Sexual Assault
Being able to over-imbibe alcohol is one of the key draws of going on a cruise ship. You don’t have to worry about driving home and you don’t have to worry about being awake in the morning. It’s also apparent that cruise lines don’t want the general public to know that those aboard have a higher risk of being sexually assaulted than those in their normal community. Again, this may have at least something to do with the fact that the individuals aboard don’t know one another and will likely never see each other again. There’s no community to hold them responsible for their conduct.
The question then becomes: When are cruise lines liable for assaults that occur on their ship? There’s no specific answer for that either.
In one case, a 15-year-old girl left a teens-only club to get ice cream when she was raped by a group of drunk men. It’s expected that girls her age would be free to wander the ship while their parents enjoyed themselves elsewhere. So what duty of care to cruise lines owe passengers?
What Happens After a Sexual Assault?
There is no law enforcement of any country aboard a cruise ship. Cruise ships employ private security contractors to perform investigations. This investigation is turned over to local authorities. Since the private security individuals are employed by the cruise ships, they are well aware of potential liability problems. Their relationship to victims is adversarial.
Sexual predators are all too aware of this fact and use muddy jurisdictional issues, a lack of formal law enforcement oversight, and the infrequency of successful prosecutions to find victims.
For this reason, U.S. lawmakers have considered installing “sea marshalls” aboard cruise ships to prevent these sorts of situations and give victims a fighting chance to see those who hurt them brought to justice.
Talk to a Maritime and Civil Sexual Assault Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured or assaulted aboard a cruise ship, the Houston maritime accident attorneys at Livingston & Flowers, P.L.L.C. may be able to hold the cruise ship liable for your injuries. Talk to us today to schedule a free consultation.