Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

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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Safety tips, cruise ship rape, spring breakersSpring break is around the corner, which means there are going to be a lot of kids, teens, and college students cruising around the world. Some will be cruising with their parents, while others will venture off into the seas with friends. Given the higher number of young passengers that will be sailing on cruise vacations in the upcoming weeks, our attorneys here at LMAW would like to take a moment to discuss one of the largest threats that often face young and female travelers while out at sea: cruise ship rape.

Though cruise vacations are intended to be fun and relaxing, they often become a breeding grounds for cruise ship rape crimes. Statistics show that sexual assault is the type of crime that occurs most frequently on cruise ships, which is why it is imperative that spring breaker cruisers remain as cautious as possible. If you have planned on going on a cruise during spring break, our cruise ship rape lawyers have three important tips that can help you avoid becoming a victim of a sexual crime: Continue reading

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Cruise ship rape, sexual assault, discrepancy in reportingWhen most travelers board a cruise ship, they have a lot on their minds. ‘What activities should I do first?’ ‘Where can I get some food?’ ‘Point me to the nearest bar.’ It’s highly doubtful that any cruise passenger’s prevailing thoughts are centered on what crimes they could possibly suffer from or how unsafe they might be on their ship. But sadly, this is something all cruise passengers should be thinking about because safety isn’t always guaranteed. Unfortunately, there is a very real threat of danger with any cruise vacation –one of the largest being the threat of sexual assault.

Our cruise ship rape lawyers here at LMAW have reported on several acts of sexual assault on cruise lines that have transpired over the past few years, many of which have involved crew members and even young children. And sadly, many of the victims of these incidents did not have the chance to obtain justice – and may never be able to. Why? Because of an unfortunate, yet all too common practice among cruise lines – withholding evidence.

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sexual assault, cruise shipsCruise vacations should be fun, right? They should offer the perfect chance to relax and unwind, as well as the opportunity to discover new, exciting destinations. The last thing anyone ever expects is for their cruise vacation to go from fun to being a nightmare. Unfortunately, this is the reality many cruise passengers face when they become the victims of sexual assault on the high seas.

Sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships, yet, cruise lines appear nonchalant about these statistics. Anyone can become a victim of sexual assault on the high seas – from children to crew members! Yet, cruise lines continue to withhold evidence when reporting sexual crimes, continue to avoid hiring trained security guards, and continue to perform limited background checks on potential crew members – all of which contribute to greater prevalence of sexual assault incidents on board ships.

Unfortunately, we don’t foresee the cruise industry turning over a new safety leaf anytime soon. This means that it’s up to passengers to try and remain as safe as possible. Continue reading

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Valentine's Day cruise risksIn our last blog, our maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman talked about how a Valentine’s Day cruise can be a breeding grounds for potentially life-threatening scenarios at sea. While many cruisers embark on a Valentine’s cruise to have a good time with their significant others or even celebrate the single life with their friends, there are several risks that can present themselves on a holiday sailing. Last time, we discussed how scorned travelers can create a threatening situation on a ship. Scorned travelers are individuals who may be suffering from severe heartbreak, loneliness, or any other depressive state of mind. The actions of these passengers can be unpredictable, and can lead to troublesome situations on the high seas, including violence.

However, there are a number of other factors that can create a dangerous environment on a Valentine’s Day sailing besides scorned travelers. Below are some of the main safety threats for passengers cruising on Valentine’s Day and how to best avoid them:

 

Higher likelihood of sexual assault

Many of the individuals who opt for a Valentine’s Day cruise are single women who are just looking to have a good time with their also single girlfriends. Continue reading

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cruise ship rape, cruise ship rape lawyerThe recent sentencing of a Holland America crew member who raped and attempted to murder a female passenger aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam on Valentine’s Day, 2014, has raised several concerns over the safety of cruise ships, the efficacy of cruise line background screenings, and whether or not a victim of cruise ship rape can ever truly obtain justice, even when the assailant is caught and sentenced, as this particular crew member was.

The crew member, an Indonesian man named Ketut Pujayasa, was sentenced to over 30 years in prison in a Broward County Federal Court. Pujayasa admitted to his crimes, explaining he committed the heinous crimes after believing the victim had insulted him. Pujayasa obtained a master key to open the victim’s stateroom, where he waited for hours in her balcony until she returned. It was then that he proceeded to violently assault and sexually abuse her, before attempting to throw her overboard from the balcony. Miraculously, the victim escaped. She was present in court when the sentence was passed, but while it appears that a fair sentence was handed down, there is nothing that can erase the unspeakable pain she has suffered.

The damage incurred from the sexual assault and attempted murder can never be completely undone, and the victim continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress. Yet, despite the fact that sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships, the cruise industry continues to downplay the issue and has yet to incorporate an effective way to both handle and prevent these horrific crimes from happening.

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Holland America, cruise rape, sentencedIt’s been nearly a year since a Holland America passenger was raped and nearly killed by a cruise ship crew member aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam ship on Valentine’s Day, 2014. We can’t even begin to imagine the unspeakable amount of suffering the victim underwent – or the suffering any other cruise ship rape victim undergoes – but now, finally, at least some semblance of justice has been attained.

According to news reports, a verdict has been reached in the case. The former HAL crew member was sentenced to 30 years and five months in prison in a Broward County Federal Court.

Back in September, Ketut Pujayasa, the Indonesian crew member in question, confessed to brutally raping, beating, and attempting to throw the passenger overboard from the balcony in her stateroom to FBI officials. Pujayasa told officials he believed the victim insulted him, and plotted revenge against her. He then obtained a master key and entered her room while she was away, waited for her in the balcony, and once the victim came back to the stateroom, he sexually assaulted her and tried to throw her overboard as a form of “punishment”.

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Quantum of the SeasRoyal Caribbean recently fired a Quantum of the Seas crew member who was held in custody in New Jersey following accusations that he sexually assaulted a passenger in her cabin. The passenger was allegedly asleep when the assault took place.

The 25 year old crew member who was from Mauritius, allegedly threatened the woman against reporting the incident when she woke up. The crew member had access to the woman’s room because it was his duty to restock the cabin mini-bars. The crew member had been given a key that allowed him to have access to the woman’s room.

Given the fact that crew members are often given unrestricted access to passenger’s private rooms, one wonders what measures are in place in terms of security background checks during the hiring process. Though thorough background checks should be done, not every cruise line does so. And even when a background check is thorough, they don’t always check for criminal history in other countries, despite the fact that the majority of cruise ship crew members are foreign-born.

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HandcuffsIn the U.S., sex offenders are required to register with the FBI in order to let government agencies know where they will live. In all U.S. states, neighbors and citizens are warned through websites or other publications when a registered sex offender moves nearby. Megan’s Law requires that the U.S. government provide citizens with notification and information about sex offenders, including personal information about where the sex offender resides. Registered sex offenders are prohibited from being in the presence of minors or coming within a certain distance of a school or day care center.

Yet, when individuals go on a cruise vacation, it is impossible to know whether the person in the cabin next door or the fellow sitting by the pool is a registered sex offender. Cruise lines don’t have the same informational and governmental structure available to them to warn vacationers when a sex offender may be traveling on board. The results of this information gap can sometimes be tragic.

The unfortunate reality is that cruise lines do not perform background checks on passengers and guests and they are not required to warn other passengers when a sex offender is traveling onboard a cruise.

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Each cruise ship rape lawyer at our firm has, unfortunately, seen many tragic cases where women have been raped while on board a cruise. We fight diligently to seek justice for these women and understand that victims often feel confused and alone. Yet, it’s important to remember that there are a variety of resources available to protect the rights of those who have been victims of rape and sexual assault on the high seas.

​First and foremost, if you’ve been assaulted on a ship, report the crime to ship authorities as soon as possible, but also report the incident to the FBI and Coast Guard on your own and consult with a cruise ship rape lawyer to discuss your rights and steps you should take after the incident to ensure your protection. It is vital for you to take action on your own for several reasons.

For one, though maritime law requires cruise lines to contact authorities and perform their own investigation when notified of a suspected sexual assault or rape, unfortunately, cruise lines don’t always do so. Often, cruise operators fail to report the crime to the FBI and other law enforcement authorities, fail to question alleged suspects, fail to review on board surveillance tapes for any record of the incident, or fail to perform a proper and thorough investigation of the alleged crime scene itself.

By contacting the FBI and Coast Guard on your own to report the crime directly, you can have peace of mind in knowing the incident was documented by the proper officials, who will take decisive action. And by contacting a cruise ship rape lawyer, you will have peace of mind in knowing that an experienced legal professional will start building a case for you immediately.

 

Yet, even when cruise lines do follow proper maritime protocols following an alleged sexual assault or rape, the fact still stands that even the most skilled and experienced of a ship’s security officers often cannot investigate the incident or gather evidence as accurately as an actual law enforcement officer or FBI agent would be able to.

​Also, if the assault occurred while the ship was docked in a foreign country, that nation’s authorities will be responsible for conducting the primary investigation and may not do so thoroughly or quickly enough and may not even be willing to cooperate with U.S. authorities or the victims themselves. This not only creates a window of opportunity for the assailant to get away with the crime, but hinders the victim’s ability to obtain justice.

​Additionally, if you have been raped onboard a cruise ship, do not shower immediately and leave the crime scene intact so that investigators have a chance to collect as much evidence as possible. Make sure that the crime scene is not altered until proper authorities can investigate. Unfortunately, due to international laws, the FBI may not be able to investigate the crime scene until the ship docks at a U.S. port.

You should also seek medical treatment immediately, either on board the ship or at a local hospital if docked at a foreign country. While medical services on a cruise ship are limited, most cruises have at least one doctor on duty that can perform at least a basic health screening and take samples that may be later used to identify the assailant.

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Bill Cosby accused of rapeWith 16 women having come out in recent weeks accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault and abuse, it’s become extremely clear that sexual assault needs to be brought to the forefront – especially sexual assault on cruise ships. Not only is it important for cruise ship rape victims to understand the importance of coming forward with their testimonies, it is equally critical that cruise lines start implementing greater safety measures to prevent these tragedies in the first place.

There are several similarities between the incidents with Cosby and those that happen on board cruise ships. For example, Time Magazine reports that many of the women who accused Cosby of sexual assault remained silent about the abuse during the comedian’s long career, spanning from the 70s to the present. Some of the women say that Cosby drugged them before assaulting them. More shockingly, Cosby’s history of rape would not have reached the public eye had the comedian Hannibal Buress not mentioned it in a comic routine.

Like Cosby’s victims, there are numerous sexual assaults and rapes on cruise ships that never see the light of day. Whether it’s because the victim is afraid to come forward or the cruise line fails to properly investigate the situation, assailants do not always get identified or charged with their actions. Furthermore, cruise lines have an interest in underreporting sexual crimes. For example, although Carnival Cruise Lines reported five rape incidents involving crew members and two incidents of sexual assault for 2013, experts believe these numbers may not be accurate.

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