Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Rape & Sexual Assault

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Senator John Rockefeller Cruise Ship Safety HearingIn a previous blog, our cruise ship rape lawyer Rick Alsina discussed the recent Senate committee hearing, where the prevalence of sexual assault crimes on cruise ships was addressed. The language Senator John D. Rockefeller used was strong and to the point. He was “fed up” with the cruise industry and said that the industry too frequently treated its injured or assaulted passengers and crew with “callousness and disregard,” (U.S.A. Today reports).

Rockefeller has recently introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act to the Senate. This act, when passed, will require passenger vessels to provide more transparent cruise passenger ticket contracts. The act will also place stricter safety requirements on cruise lines and passenger vessels. This proposal seems like a win for passengers. Let’s examine the act in further detail.

One of the many provisions of the act includes requiring cruise lines to summarize key terms of their passenger ticket contracts to ensure that passengers know what they’re getting into (and what rights they are foregoing) before they step on-board a cruise ship. The act will also require cruise lines to summarize the key terms of their passenger ticket contracts in all of their advertising. This would ensure that potential cruisers will be informed about their rights before they decide to purchase a ticket.

Unfortunately, until the Cruise Passenger Protection Act goes into effect, cruise ship passenger ticket contracts will continue to remain murky and contain ambiguous loopholes. As it stands, these contracts limit a cruise line’s liability when someone is injured on a cruise or involved in a crime, even if the incident is as serious as sexual assault or rape. For this reason, it is imperative that you contact a cruise ship rape lawyer if you happen to be injured or sexually assaulted while in international waters. Trying to fight the cruise lines on your own is extremely difficult, but an attorney experienced with the ins and outs of the cruise passenger ticket contract can help you fight for your rights and receive compensation for your injuries.

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Justice ScaleWhen you board a cruise ship, the last thing you are thinking of is what could possible go wrong. You’re there to relax, have fun, and explore new destinations, not to worry about whether or not the ship is safe and whether you will be at risk for an accident or crime. But unfortunately, these are concerns every cruise passenger should have. Not only are cruise accidents and crimes occurring in greater frequency and at a rapid pace – despite technology that’s available to reduce the number of incidents and despite the maritime laws that are in place to protect passengers from harm.

Even if something does go wrong on a cruise, no one really books a cruise vacation thinking that anything more than just a couple of bumps and bruises will occur. Unfortunately, the reality of the fact is that accidents and crimes do happen and when they do, they aren’t usually minor. Many would be surprised to learn that sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships. It is also one of the most underreported crimes, with cruise lines often failing to document incidents to avoid liability and failing to report incidents to the public to avoid bad publicity.

One of the reasons sexual assault is so common on cruise ships is because there are dozens of hidden corridors that perpetrators can use to their advantage. Another reason is that, despite the fact that many cruise lines are equipped with surveillance cameras, tapes aren’t monitored as much as they should, allowing criminals to get away with their wrongdoings. By the time many sexual assaults are reported – and counting the hours it can take for cruise lines to investigate the incident (if at all) – the assailant will already likely have disembarked the ship at the nearest port and avoided persecution. There also aren’t any actual police officers on board cruise ships who can provide victims the protection they need from harm, or who can assist once a sexual crime is reported. The fact that there aren’t real police officers on ships means that critical evidence can be lost or destroyed, possibly hindering the victim’s case.

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Laurie Dishman Cruise Ship Safety Senate HearingIn Part 1 of our blog, we discussed how sexual assaults are an ongoing problem within the cruise industry and how cruise lines have continuously failed to provide accurate reporting of the numbers and the facts surrounding these crime and have also failed to improve ship board safety aimed at addressing it, despite the fact that they have a responsibility under maritime law to the health and welfare of their passengers and crew. As a result, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller recently held his second hearing to discuss the lack of passenger safety.

Sen. Rockefeller has continuously tried to improve the safety of passengers on cruise ships yet, cruise lines have been very slow to respond to his concerns. Last year, he introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act and held a Senate Committee hearing to discuss the lack of safety within the industry. The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection,” was aired publicly on the senate website and showed just how large of a discrepancy there was between the crimes cruise lines report and the actual number of incidents that take place.

Shortly after the hearing, four of the world’s major cruise lines, “Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines, “voluntarily” published crime reports, which included statistics on the number of passengers who reported sexual crimes dating back to 2010. We say “voluntarily” in quotation marks because the disclosure was mostly a response to the Senator’s bill, which mandates reporting compliance and also standardizes the way reports are revealed to the public.

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Senator John Rockefeller Cruise Ship Safety HearingSexual assault is an issue that has plagued the cruise industry for several years. Unfortunately, as each maritime lawyer at our firm knows all too well, not very many people are aware of this.  For years, the cruise industry has been allowed and worked very hard to hide the number of crimes that occur on board, as a result only minimal about this has gotten out to the public.

Though maritime law requires crimes to be reported to the FBI, Coast Guard and other appropriate law enforcement agencies, the fact that most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries and fly foreign flags results in a kind of loophole – one that has allowed the cruise lines to get away with not reporting these crimes. By flying these “flags of convenience”, cruise lines until recently, had been allowed by the U. S. government to not have to report these crimes.

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HandcuffsEarlier this week, we reported on an alleged sexual assault aboard a cruise ship in St. Kitts on June 6. There wasn’t much information on the supposed incident at first, aside from suggestions that the alleged assailant was a crew member, but a recent article published by a local news source has confirmed that the assault did in fact take place and the attacker was in fact a Carnival crew member.

According to the news source, the assault occurred onboard the Carnival Valor, while the vessel was berthed at Port Zante. Details are still scarce, but the source reports that cruise operators alerted local authorities of the incident and the assailant was taken into custody the same day and charged with rape. The victim was a female passenger aboard the ship, but due to privacy concerns, their identity was not revealed. Unlike a victim’s privacy rights, however, the identity of the assailant can be disclosed. Strangely, neither local authorities nor Carnival operators have yet to provide details on the crew member’s name or the circumstances surrounding the assault.

We here find it extremely odd that the details regarding this cruise ship rape – which occurred nearly a week ago – still remain so ambiguous. Though cruise lines have long failed to accurately report crimes aboard their ships, especially sexual crimes, the identity of the assailant is usually revealed a few days after the incident is initially reported. This particular incident seems to be under wraps, which leads us to believe there may be something neither local authorities nor Carnival want to reveal.

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Cruise ship inspectionOur firm has reported on numerous sexual assault incidents aboard cruise lines over the years. In some cases, the incidents have involved other cruise passengers as the assailants, while in other cases, crew members themselves have been the suspects. Just last February, we reported on a horrific incident involving a female passenger who was brutally assaulted and raped by a Holland America crew member in her own stateroom. But while the idea of a crew member breaking into a passenger cabin seems to many a farfetched concept, sadly, the rate of sexual crimes on the high seas is more common than anyone might imagine. In fact, comprising 55 percent of all crimes reported to the FBI, sexual assault is the most frequently occurring offense on the high seas, and one of the most covered up.

We’ve previously discussed how cruise lines have underreported crimes over the years, mostly due to the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries. By doing so, cruise lines are able to avoid stricter U.S. laws and are not as bound to disclose crime data as they would were ships to be registered in the United States. Also, with full disclosure of all criminal incidents onboard ships, cruise lines risk the negative press associated with these crimes and a drop in bookings. After all, who would feel safe traveling with a cruise line that held a high rate of sexual assault crimes?

Last year, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller introduced a bill that would require cruise lines to increase transparency in their crime data reporting. The legislation was proposed after it became increasingly clear that the cruise industry was withholding information about their crime stats, especially when it came to sexual crimes. According to FBI data, cruise lines only reported 29 sexual assault or rape incidents to the organization in 2012 and only 11 of these incidents to the public. Who knows how many more incidents occurred that were withheld from both the FBI and civilians?

Which leads us to our next point. A news source in St. Kitts recently published a story on an alleged sexual assault incident onboard a cruise ship. The attack supposedly occurred on June 6 while the vessel was docked at Porte Zante. Oddly enough, no details regarding which cruise ship the supposed incident occurred on or information about the actual incident were provided. Is someone trying to conceal information?

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HandcuffsBack in February, the cruise ship sexual assault attorneys at our firm reported on a disturbing case involving a Holland America crew member who brutally beat, raped and attempted to murder a female passenger in her own cabin. Now, we have learned of another horrific sexual crime also involving a crew member. Shockingly, the attack was against an underage girl and aboard Disney Cruise Line, of all lines.

According to news reports, 36-year-old Ahmed Sofyan, of Jakarta, Indonesia, was arrested yesterday after molesting a 13-year-old girl aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship. The crew member was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment.

The alleged incident occurred while the Disney Dream was docked in Port Canaveral yesterday morning just after 8 am. Unlike other sexual crime cases, which may never get reported and for which victims may never obtain justice, Disney responded right away to the incident and contacted local and federal authorities upon first hearing of the terrible crime. We don’t yet know the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault, such as where it happened or what prompted the attack, but what we do know is that the way Disney handed the situation was on par with maritime laws regarding sexual crimes.

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HandcuffsStatistics show that sexual assault is the most frequently occurring crime within the cruise industry.  Throughout the years, hundreds of passengers ranging in age, race and ethnicity have been molested or raped onboard cruise ships across the world by fellow passengers and cruise ship crew members. Unfortunately, though these crimes are quite common, they are seldom reported by the industry to the FBI and Coast Guard, despite their severity. Cruise lines are well aware that once they report sexual crimes to these authorities, the incidents will likely go public, marring the lines’ reputations and possibly resulting in the cruise lines being held liable for negligence in maintaining safety on their vessels.

The lack of transparency in cruise crime reporting came to a head last year during a U.S. Senate Committee Hearing, where FBI data on sexual crimes was compared to cruise line data. In 2011,  the FBI reported 42 cruise ship sexual assault crimes, but only 13 were reported to the public. Then, in 2012, the FBI reported 29 cruise ship sexual assault crimes, while only 11 were reported to the public.

But even in the wake of the committee hearing, sexual crimes continue to abound within the cruise industry. Demonstrating that reporting alone is not enough to solve the problem.

After a Holland America passenger was brutally beat, sexually assaulted, and nearly killed by a cruise ship crew member in February, we thought we had seen the worst of these horrible crimes, but our maritime attorneys have just learned of an equally harrowing incident that demonstrates the inadequacy of the cruise lines employee screenings and back ground checks.

A British cruise ship crew member who sexually assaulted two children in the 1980s has finally been brought to justice after one of his victims found him on Facebook. Barry Willoughby left England in the early 1990s to pursue a career in the gambling industry and began working in the cruise industry. He had been enjoying what appeared to be a quiet life, when police came to arrest him at his home in Mississippi in 2012.

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Justice ScaleThe sexual attack on a Holland America passenger on Valentine’s Day raised several red flags regarding the cruise industry. Our maritime lawyers were appalled to learn that a crewmember onboard the MS Amsterdam illegally entered a passenger’s cabin and brutally attacked, raped and attempted to murder her.  The worker, a 28-year-old room service attendant, used his company-issued master key to enter the victim’s room after plotting the attack. According to perpetrator, the victim allegedly insulted him, which prompted his sexual assault.

As shocking as it is to learn that a crewmember can break into a passenger cabin so easily to commit a sexual crime, this isn’t the first time – nor likely the last – that a crewmember has attacked a passenger. In fact, this is the SECOND sexual assault crime to occur onboard a Holland America ship in less than two months! Our firm’s maritime attorney Jason Margulies is currently representing the victim in the prior case, an 18-year-old passenger who was reportedly assaulted by a ship’s officer aboard the MS Amerstadam.

Now, our firm is even more shocked to learn that the crewmember involved in the most recent crime is being provided legal assistance by the Indonesian government after confessing to his brutal crimes.

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sexual assault victimThe recent sexual attack of a passenger onboard a Holland America Line cruise ship has raised red flags for many. Not just for officials, but for cruise goers as well. While the idea of a crew member entering your cabin without your permission in the middle of the night seems shocking and unlikely, when you look at actual cruise crime statistics regarding sexual assault, harassment and rape, the numbers are a lot worse than you might imagine.

When it comes to cruise ship crimes, sexual assault is the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI, comprising roughly 55 percent of all crimes at sea that are reported to the agency. But while 55 percent seems extremely high, the real figure is even higher.

Cruise lines are notorious for concealing and downplaying criminal activity on their ships. Why? Well, for starters, if news of a serious crime breaks out, this could cause severe damage to the cruise line’s reputation, especially if a particular line has been involved in repeated sexual offenses. A criminal incident can also cost a cruise line a lot of money. All cruise companies are required to put the safety of their passengers above all else. Safety can mean a lot of things, including protection from accidents and injuries, but it also encompasses protection from criminal activity. Sexual assault is one of the worst and most life-changing incidents an individual can go through. Victims have a right to seek legal help with a maritime attorney and may be eligible to obtain compensation for their pain and suffering. A sexual assault or rape lawsuit can really impact a cruise line’s bank account, and it can also lead to the loss of future cruise sales.

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