Rape is one of the crimes which happens everywhere, at sea and on land. Understand just because it occurs all over doesn’t make it right nor should it limit victim (aka survivor) rights. When it happens at sea it can end up being more difficult for the survivor to get the help they need immediately. Persistence and notifying the all appropriate authorities is important to getting the crime addresses more adequately and timely.
Rape on cruise ships in particular occurs between crew on guests, crew on crew, guests on guests, and even can happen as guests on crew. Passengers and crew alike come from many different backgrounds some, where personal space is more protected and others where personal space is non-existent. Further some come from environments where males dominate all decisions and females do as told. None of this excuses rape, but helps set the stage for why rapes happen at sea on what is supposed to be a nice vacation for the guests. Another contributing factor, especially in the guest on guest realm is the abundance of alcohol consumed by some passengers on cruise ships. Again being intoxicated does not make it ok to commit rape and when the victim is intoxicated it does not give away their right to say no.
FBI statistics indicate rape and other similar assaults are less frequent on cruise ships than on land. That said part of the issue is the reporting which claim is under reported on cruise ships. This is one good reason to know the FBI office phone number when you are traveling in the event you need to reach out to report a crime to them. Regardless though of what stats consider to be safer, if you are the one victimized, no level of statistics will provide comfort in that you should have been safe. Thus, knowing how to react to such a situation is critical to contribute to an outcome ideally other than the perpetrator walking totally free.
Knowing some of the factors that can contribute to abuse and rape on ships, knowing what to do to stop it before it happens or how to deal with it after it happens is key. Ideally, stopping it before it happens is the best idea. One of the best ways to avoid rape is to travel with a trusted friend who can help you get out of a messy situation in a bar or back to your cabin safely if you are drunk. Of course they teach fight back in self-defense courses and that is another option.
If one is unfortunate and is attacked dealing with the aftermath appropriately is key to ensuring justice is more likely carried out. First and foremost it must be reported to security. A rape kit should be collected at the ship’s clinic by the ship doctor. A report should be made to local police if docked, and always if you are a US citizen report it to the FBI. The ship should notify the FBI but it’s wise you ask the ship to connect you directly to the FBI offices yourself. Also, write your account of what happened for your own records so you can explain the situation to the FBI when they investigate.
Don’t allow the cruise line security persons to tell you there is no recourse or that they will take care of notifying all authorities and that the survivor does not need to worry. Always be involved in the process of speaking with the FBI and local authorities were needed. It’s not that the ship security team will not do it, but staying involved helps let the cruise lines know you are serious about the reporting and investigation of the crime.
It may also be wise to consult an attorney familiar with dealings involving the cruise lines. One reason for this is to give you and independent source of guidance not employed by the cruise line or any government. In a situation like this someone who knows how to best navigate the system to get the guilty party to pay for their crime may be very beneficial. Jim Walker is one attorney familiar with all kinds of cruise ship passenger and crew related issues.
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