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The last thing anyone thinks about when booking a cruise is whether they could fall victim to sexual assault.

However, as one Miami attorney explains, “a cruise ship is like a floating city of 10,000 people…you have a barbershop..a gym…retail stores, but no police. You have cruise ship security personnel, but their goal is to protect the cruise line, not you.” He represented a 15-year-old autistic client who was raped by two men on a family cruise.

The reality is there isn’t much safeguarding against sex crimes on cruises. In today’s post, we’re going to specifically address the relationship between cruises and sexual assault – how often it happens, reasons why, and steps to take if you fall victim to this crime.

Statistics Say Your Chances of Getting Sexually Assaulted on a Cruise Are Slim, But…

According to the Department of Transportation, of the estimated 28.2 million American cruise passengers in 2018, there were only 82 who reported sexual assault.

Without context and when compared to the likelihood of being attacked on dry land, it may seem like your chances of being sexually assaulted are pretty slim, but consider this…

  • Victims often only have the option to report to staff employed by (and thus motivated to protect) the cruise line.
  • Depending on the timing of the assault, it can take days to reach port where true law enforcement can investigate.
  • By the time investigators look, evidence has likely deteriorated, witnesses have gone MIA, and crime scenes are nearly certain to have changed.

In fact, there was nothing outlined in federal law that required cruise lines to provide the proper medical attention or resources for filing a report at all until 2010. So, we are inclined to believe sexual assault happens far more than what authorities are capable of reporting.

Want some other reasons why?

Could Cruises Be the Perfect Place for Sexual Predators?

Besides the poor case handling processes in place, there are a number of advantages a sexual predator has simply due to the nature of cruising.

Not Everything Counts as Sexual Assault

“Sexual assault” is the only sex crime cruise lines are required to disclose publicly. “Sexual contact,” “inappropriate touching” – these are examples of crime reports that never see the light of day. The FBI does see them, though, and receives about 30 percent more than the rest of us.

Aiding and Abetting

To avoid accountability, often cruise lines will actually help the accused flee – especially employees.

When most employees are not U.S. citizens and there’s constant access to international waters, this isn’t hard to achieve. They simply fire the employee and send them home, where jurisdiction often becomes too murky.

Passengers Lower Their Guard

Cruising is essentially sitting on a boat for days while drinking, eating, and soaking up the sun – a true vacation. You’re even encouraged to make strangers your friends. Parents especially lower their guard when booking family cruises specifically designed for entertaining their kids.

These elements combined can end up providing the perfect situation for sexual predators to commit their crimes.

What to Do When You Can’t Prevent a Cruise Sexual Assault

The first thing to do when you’ve fallen victim to sexual assault on your cruise is report the crime. There are a handful of organizations you can contact, including:

Understand that you have rights as a victim of sexual assault. Once an outside source has been notified, report the incident to cruise line security and/or medical staff, and request a sexual assault forensic exam as soon as possible.

Sexual Assault on Cruises

If you feel you did not receive the proper attention or that your rights have been violated, contact a South Florida attorney experienced in cruise ship claims.

When you’ve fallen victim to sexual assault on your cruise, it is important you seek help. In addition to making an offender pay, you could be saving others from suffering the same way.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.