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Case Study: Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Rape

Unfortunately It Can Happen To Anyone

No one expects to be sexually assaulted and/or raped while working on a cruise ship. But we can speak from experience - - cruise ship crew members can and do get sexually assaulted and raped.  If it happens to you or a loved one - - you need to be ready to protect your rights.


Sexual Assault and Rape Aboard A Cruise Ship 

On its website, a major cruise line company proclaims to the world, as one of its "core values," that: "The safety and security of our passengers and employees is our most important responsibility." The cruise line says that it recognizes crew members as its "greatest asset," and shows its appreciation to them by making their "life onboard the best it can be." It boasts of   making "every effort possible to offer its crew members an enjoyable environment and a rewarding career."

All of those statements are but empty words, and cynical ones at that.  We are here to tell you a story of a woman working for a major Cruise Lines on one of its ships, who was drugged by other employees, raped and physically injured while she was unconscious, and when she reported to officials of the cruise line what had happened to her they treated her with indifference and even hostility, failed to provide her with proper medical treatment on board, and interfered with her attempts to obtain medical treatment and counseling ashore.

For twelve hours a day, seven days a week, Jane Doe (we are using  the pseudonym "Jane Doe" to protect her confidentiality) worked as a bar server on major Cruise Line ship. In the early morning hours after she had worked a full shift serving drinks to passengers, Doe was returning to her cabin when a fellow crew member invited her to a birthday party. Some crew members gathered for the party in cabin number 3342, which is a double cabin with a bathroom in the middle. Because of that cabin's size, crew members often used it for parties.

One of male crew members present at the party, handed Jane Doe an open beer and, not suspecting anything, she drank it. The beer contained a drug, which rendered her unconscious in the cabin with five male crew members.

When Jane Doe came to later that morning, she was in one of the beds in cabin 3342. Someone had removed her pants and underwear, and she realized that she had been raped while she was unconscious. She also had a severe headache, was dizzy, disoriented, and weak, all of which are after-effects of a date rape drug.

Crew Member Predator (we are using a pseudonym for the crew member that sexually assaulted and raped Jane Doe)  was in the cabin when Jane Doe awoke, and she asked him who had done this to her. He blamed other crew members.  When Jane Doe got back to her own cabin, she felt so sick and weak that she could not climb the ladder to her bunk and instead fell asleep on the floor. Her cabin mate awoke her later, and Jane Doe returned to work early that afternoon. She felt so sick, however, that she had to go back to her cabin to sleep.

Jane Doe returned to work the next morning,  feeling "humiliated, ashamed, and traumatized" because she had been raped while unconscious in a cabin with five men. She could not recall how many men had participated in the rape or had watched it occur or whether any of them had taken photographs or a video of her being assaulted.

Jane Doe told her work supervisor that she had been raped while unconscious in cabin 3342. She wanted to report the rape to a personnel manager then so that she could ask permission to miss work and get medical treatment, but her supervisor refused to permit her to leave, telling her that she could wait until the next morning to report it. After she got off work the next morning, Jane Doe went to the personnel manager and reported that she had been raped and explained the circumstances in which it had happened. The personnel manager told her to write a report and then go back to work.

That afternoon, Jane Doe was interrogated by ship officers and required to repeatedly recount the details of the rape in the presence of male officers and supervisors. That same afternoon the cruise line had her prepare another statement and tape recorded her account. As a result Jane Doe, who had not eaten all day, felt "weak and traumatized." She had not been given any medical attention.

Jane Doe was finally allowed to go to the ship's infirmary, more than 24 hours after she had reported the rape. After examining her, the ship's doctor concluded that Jane Doe had a torn labia, which could have been a result of "forced entry." The doctor drew blood and tested  Jane Doe's urine for the presence of date rape drugs. The test was positive, although the ship doctor characterized the results as "'weak.”

It should be noted the presence of date rape drugs is not detectable for very long: Rohypnol for 72 hours and GHB for only 12 hours.  She did not receive medical attention from the ship's doctor until more than 48 hours after the rape.

Crew Member Predator admitted to "ship personnel" that he had engaged  in "sex" with Jane Doe while she was unconscious, and that he did so without using a condom. The ship's doctor reported in Jane Doe's medical records that she had been raped, but the doctor did not administer anti-retroviral medication in order to counteract the risk of HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. The ship's officers and officials did not allow Jane Doe to disembark for emergency medical treatment in a United States port. Instead, she was instructed to return to work. By the time she was finally allowed off the ship and was treated at a hospital's sexual assault  center, more than three weeks after the rape, it was too late for antiretroviral treatment.

The cruise line did report the incident to the FBI, and agents boarded the ship but they did not arrest anyone.  Jane Doe's medical records with the cruise line note that her blood and rape kit samples were then destroyed by dumping them in the incinerator.

The cruise line did fire Crew Member Predator, after he admitted to "engaging in sex" with Jane Doe while she was unconscious, and then it flew him back to his home country. It allowed the other four crew members, who had been in the cabin at the time and may also have raped Jane Doe, to keep their jobs.

After Jane Doe reported that she had been raped, an official from the cruise line told her that she could not leave the ship at a United States port to receive medical treatment or counseling. She had, she was told, only two options: She could go to a clinic in Alaska and return immediately to work, or she could return to Russia. Even though she had a valid tourist visa, a representative of the cruise line told Jane Doe that immigration officials would not allow her to enter the United States for medical treatment. No one from the cruise line informed Jane Doe about her rights as a seaman, allegedly "including the right to obtain medical treatment and counseling ashore in the U.S. and the right to choose her own doctors and receive maintenance and cure until she recovered from the trauma."

Jane Doe   personally asked officers or agents of the cruise line who were on the ship to help her get medical treatment in Seattle. They responded by berating her, interrogating her again, and attempting to force her to choose between remaining on the ship or going back to Russia. They told her she had no other options.

Jane Doe met with immigration officials of this country, who granted her a medical parole so that she could receive treatment and counseling at a rape crisis facility in the United States. Even so, someone from the cruise line reported to immigration officials that Jane Doe was absent  from the ship without leave, allegedly "in an effort to have her arrested and deported."

Despite the cruise line's obligation to provide Jane Doe with maintenance and cure, its officials refused to provide her with food and delayed paying for her United States hotel for two months.


Don’t Be A Victim Again

We would like to tell you that this was merely a single solitary case. We would like to tell you that these type of things don’t happen often aboard cruise ships. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you any of this.  

The truth is that Jane Doe had to file a lawsuit to get the compensation she is entitled to under the Jones Act and general maritime law.  It took standing up to the company and their lawyers to get the compensation she was entitled to under the law. If something like this happens to you or to a loved one - don’t hesitate to protect your dignity. Don’t hesitate to protect your rights.




Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. 

William Turley
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“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”