Cruise Ship Sexual Abuse Lawyers: Who is Liable for Sex Assault at Sea?

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Sexual assaults and rape can occur anywhere, and that includes while on vacation on a cruise ship. Both passengers and staff can fall victim. You are here because:

  • You or a loved one was sexually assaulted or abused while on a cruise ship
  • You are unsure of your legal rights as you may have been at sea, different state or country
  • You want those who enabled the abuse to occur to be held accountable

The dedicated legal team at Abuse Guardian is here to help. Some assault survivors may be able to secure financial compensation. Call today or learn more about our sexual assault law firm. Unfortunately, sex abuse happens in other places, learn more about airline sexual abuse lawsuits.

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Cruise passengers are exposed to unique risks when sexual assault and other crimes occur on board. Since these ships are often in the middle of the ocean or docked in foreign countries, the procedure for getting help is different than it is on American soil.

The Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act

Fortunately, with the help of the survivors' advocates group RAINN, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) in 2010. This helps to protect passengers from the dangers of sexual violence and to implement effective response methods when an assault does occur.

Unfortunately, no law can prevent these crimes from happening. If you've recently become the victim of a cruise ship sexual assault, you should be aware of your options for support and legal justice. With the help of the criminal justice system and a reliable victims' rights lawyer, you can find justice for what you've gone through.

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Cruise Sex Abuse Lawyers: Increase Safety Protections For Passengers

The CVSSA guarantees certain rights and protections for all passengers:

  • Security guide - The cruise must provide you with a written security guide with details of how to report a crime, including where to go and who to speak with. This guide must also provide information on the various local criminal laws for jurisdictions your ship may pass through during the cruise. Finally, this guide should have a list of locations for US embassies and consulate locations in all of the foreign countries your ship will be visiting.
  • Sexual assault forensic exams - Cruise ships must be prepared to perform sexual assault forensic exams by having the proper equipment and trained professionals on board.
  • The right to confidentiality - If you've been the victim of a sexual assault, any information you provide to support staff must remain confidential.

If a cruise ship fails to provide these safety measures and a crime occurs, they may be held liable for damages in a civil court of law.

How To Respond After A Sexual Assault on a Cruise

If you have been sexually assaulted on a cruise ship, there are a few first steps you should follow:

  • Seek medical attention - It's important to seek medical care to treat both external injuries and internal ones which may not be visible. The ship should have medical facilities and trained staff to help you. If your ship is docked and the assault occurred on land, visit the nearest hospital.
  • Receive a forensic exam - A sexual assault forensic exam can help gather DNA evidence that could be used to prosecute the person who assaulted you. As difficult as it may be, try not to shower, change clothes, or clean yourself until you've undergone this exam.
  • Report the crime - You can choose to report the assault to the FBI, US Coast Guard, or a cruise ship security officer. The cruise ship must preserve the crime scene while you wait for law enforcement to arrive.
  • Seek emotional support - You have several options for emotional support after such a traumatic experience. US Embassies and Consulates offer emergency assistance 24/7 and can provide you with helpful resources. If possible, you could also contact a close friend or loved one whom you trust. Additionally, you can reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).
  • Contact a sexual assault lawyer - Get in touch with an experienced sexual assault lawyer, preferably one with experience trying cases in multiple states. In most cases, you'll want to look for a lawyer who operates in the state your ship sailed from.

Our experienced lawyers are familiar with cruise line sexual assault cases involving ships that sailed from ports in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Can I Sue The Cruise Line?

If a cruise liner company failed to protect you or did not adequately respond to your sexual assault, you may be able to hold them liable in a civil lawsuit. The FBI will do all that they can to prosecute the perpetrator, but this is often not enough for victims. Lawsuits are often necessary to ensure that both your attacker and the cruise line are held accountable.

These cases are complex because of jurisdictional complications since cruise ship passengers come from different parts of the world. In order to determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit, it's necessary to speak with a lawyer who is familiar with these types of cases. He or she can provide you with the legal guidance you need and help you explore all of your legal options.

Cruises are one of the most popular ways for an American to enjoy their vacation time. The companies running these massive ships provide everything that the passengers need – food, drinks, comfortable cabins to sleep in, entertainment, pools, hot tubs, libraries, and so much more. In fact, every year millions of people have a fabulous time while on a cruise. Sadly, hundreds of passengers find their vacation forever marred by a horrific experience, sexual assault.

Cruise Ship Sexual Assault In 2016

According to an investigation performed by NBC Nightly News, in 2016 alone there were 92 crimes that were reported by cruise lines. Of those, 62 were reports of sexual assault. Even more disturbing – a full third of the 62 attacks were on minors.

The enclosed nature of the ship provides sexual predators ample opportunity to plan and execute their attack. It’s not just other passengers who are involved, in many cases the victim is assaulted by an employee of the cruise line. In one case, a victim reported that she had been assaulted by one of the security guards hired to protect those on board and then didn’t know who to go to for help since the person who has attacked her was the one who was supposed to protect her.

Preserving Evidence in Cruise Sex Assault Is Important

When a sexual assault on a cruise ship is reported the FBI is the law enforcement agency responsible for investigating the manner. But few of the cases ever get prosecuted for one simple reason: lack of evidence. Victims are hesitant to report their attack and frequently don’t report it until after they have driven or flown home.

It can be difficult for a survivor to come forward but keep in mind that help can be provided while the victim’s identity is kept secret. Even small steps can help preserve evidence that can help a victim obtain justice.

Victims Can File A Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against Cruise Lines

While it is common knowledge that the victim of sexual assault can press criminal charges against their attacker, what many people don’t know is that it may also be possible to file a sexual assault lawsuit.

This lawsuit is a civil lawsuit and is completely separate from the criminal charges. If a plaintiff obtains a settlement or is awarded a successful verdict in court, they could recover significant compensation for the losses they have suffered. This may include compensation for:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Physical Pain & Suffering
  • Emotional Trauma

The amounts obtained in each case vary from plaintiff to plaintiff and depends on the facts of their case.

How Can Compensation Be Given For Emotional Distress?

It is completely normal for the survivors of sexual assault to experience ongoing fear, stress, and anxiety. In fact, many are diagnosed with PTSD which can cause:

  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidance Behaviors
  • Hyperarousal
  • Anxiety Attacks

This can make it incredibly difficult to function from day-to-day. PTSD can be treated with therapy and medication, neither of which are inexpensive. Victims shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of that burden.

More Than One Defendant Is Possible In Cruise Ship Sex Abuse Lawsuits

It’s easy to assume that the complaint will be filed against the person who sexually assaulted the plaintiff but what many don’t realize is that it may also be possible to file against the cruise line. This is because it is often the negligence of the cruise line which contributed to the conditions which allowed the attack to happen.

In one recent case, the mother of a teenage girl sued Carnival after her daughter was raped. According to their complaint, the girl was attending one of the ship’s alcohol-free clubs for 15-17-year-olds. She noted a group of older men being kicked out and later when she went to get ice cream from outside the club, they attacked her. The men dragged her to a room where she was violently raped.

She and her mother alleged that the ship failed to provide the teen with a safe environment, failed to monitor the men even though they were drunk and causing a disturbance around minors, and failed to provide adequate surveillance through security cameras and guards.

All cruise ships are supposed to provide passengers with a reasonably safe environment and when they fail to do so, they may be held legally liable.

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