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While boarding a cruise, passengers may be catching up with family members, laughing with girlfriends, chatting with their partners, or trying to wrangle their children into that initial family photo. One of the last things that cross passengers’ minds in those moments, and as the cruise ship leaves port, is sexual assault. Although cruise ships take steps to prevent sexual assault or rape from occurring at sea, it does happen.

Who Are the Victims and Perpetrators of Sexual Assault at Sea?

Back in 2014, 27 cases of sexual assault reported by three of the largest cruise operators—Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian. Taking into account the hundreds of other cruise operators around the world, this number likely more than triples. Moreover, since 2014, the annual number of sexual assaults on cruise ships has risen. In 2016, 61 incidents of sexual assault were reported as Cruise Line Incident Reports to the United States Department of Transportation.

In addition, each year incidents are reported involving crewmembers as victims. This could be sexual assault by another crewmember or an incident involving a passenger as perpetrator. In 2014, 12 incidents were reported that involved crewmembers reporting sexual assault or rape while working aboard the three biggest cruise lines.

While all cruise lines are required to provide the Cruise Line Incident Reports after a passenger or crewmember is involved in an incident of sexual assault or rape, it is likely that many victims file no reports. More open dialogue and communication is necessary on how to report, where to report, and how to contact legal representation following a sexual assault or rape.

How Does the Law Protect Victims of Sexual Assault on a Cruise Ship?

The number of incidents reported is minuscule compared to the number of people who plan cruises each year. For instance, in 2014, over 22 million people went on cruises without incident of sexual assault or rape. However, for those 100, or so, people who were victims of sexual assault, knowing where to turn, understanding how to be supported, and contacting a competent cruise ship sexual assault lawyer can be crucial.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) has been in effect since 2010. It attempts to bridge the gap between victims of sexual assault and those who report incidents and receive legal recourse, while educating passengers and addressing other safety issues aboard cruise ships. After the report of sexual assault or rape, an investigation should begin before the passenger or crew member disembarks from the ship.

Under this law and previous federal regulations, passengers have successfully reported and sued cruise line for actions by their employees in United States Federal Court in Miami, Florida. The court in this jurisdiction, where most sexual assault cases must be brought against major cruise companies, has determined that when an employee commits an intentional tort, such as sexual assault, within the course of employment, the cruise company is vicariously liable.

All of this means that case law and federal law supports a victim’s right to hold a cruise company accountable.

What to do if You Are the Victim of Sexual Assault

There should be liability and accountability, in addition to a criminal suit, following any sexual assault or rape. This liability should extend to the cruise company, in the event an employee committed sexual assault or rape or the cruise company was otherwise negligent in allowing the sexual assault to occur.

Victims should contact a cruise ship sexual assault lawyer to handle their case. The technicalities of maritime law and vicarious liability require significant prior experience to build a successful case against the cruise company, as well as, a perpetrator. Our Miami cruise ship injury law firm represents victims of sexual assault in their claims against major cruise lines. Call our office at (305)-441-0440 or toll free at 1-866-597-4529 or send us an email at [email protected].