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Sexual Assault on a Cruise Ship

Booking a cruise can be stressful. People often have to account for childcare, time off work, expenses, as well as preparing ahead of time. Crime on the ship rarely steps into the equation, although most people would be surprised to know that sexual assault is the most common crime committed on cruise ships.

Instances of sexual assault on cruise ships have been disturbingly on the rise since 2018. Companies reported a 67% increase in the third quarter of 2019 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The tally was up to 35 alleged sexual assaults, 27 of which were committed by passengers, five of which by crew members, and three by other people. 20 of these assaults were reported by one highly regarded cruise line, Carnival. While the company has written the number off as a result of its sheer size, nobody can deny that sexual assault on cruise ships remains a significant problem. Many posit that these incidents go mostly unreported either by victims or by the cruise lines themselves, indicating that the actual rate is much more problematic.

The cruise ship environment may heighten the likelihood of sexual assault. Passengers may feel a false sense of security while onboard and let their guard down. Additionally, law enforcement on the ships is not as robust as it is on dry land. Alcohol often plays a role in sexual assaults committed on a cruise ship, and overserving remains an issue.

The FBI is the primary law enforcement for cruise ships, however they rarely have any presence during the actual voyage. Instead companies employ security guards. The Cruise Vessel Securities and Safety Act (CCVSA) was implemented in 2010, requiring all cruise ship crimes be reported to the FBI. Unfortunately, cruise ships have interest in protecting their reputation, so victims cannot rely on them to report the sexual assault they have suffered. Furthermore, the CCVSA does not define what sexual assault means. Cruise lines have an incentive to minimize a situation to avoid reporting it as a sexual assault.

Jurisdiction can be difficult to determine. It depends on where the ship was at the time of the incident, and the citizenship of the victim and the perpetrator. In some cases, many countries may have to be involved in litigation. As a result, criminal proceedings are often abandoned early on. Avoid this by contacting a maritime sexual assault attorney as soon as possible.

If the assailant is a crew member…

Cruise ship sexual assault law is complex and is highly dependent on the specifics of the incident. If the assailant is a crew member on the ship, the cruise ship is strictly liable for the crime. This means that all you have to prove is that the event occurred. No negligence is necessary to hold the company liable.

If the assailant is another passenger…

Criminal penalties for sexual assault committed by another passenger are the same as for a crew member: it is still a strict liability crime. Civil penalties, however, may be complex. The cruise ship may be civilly liable if it contributed to the events giving rise to the assault. For example, by serving too much alcohol.

Victims may be able to pursue criminal or civil penalties against the perpetrator of the crime, the cruise ship, or both. Damages may include compensation for physical harm, past and future medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and rehabilitation.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault on a cruise ship, the skilled, compassionate legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have extensive experience with these highly sensitive cases. It is our goal to help you get through this emotionally challenging process as quickly and painlessly as possible. Although compensation cannot erase the pain and suffering you’ve endured, it can provide the breathing room and access to resources that can have an immensely positive impact on the healing process. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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