A few weeks ago, our maritime accident attorneys discussed recent sexual abuse allegations against a Disney Cruise Line crew member who has been charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment of a 13-year-old female cruise passenger. According to reports, Canaveral Port Authority Police arrested 36-year-old Ahmed Sofyan, a resident of Jakarta, Indonesia, on allegations that he had lured the young girl into an unoccupied cabin and touched her inappropriately.
Following the incident, Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line issued a statement: “We have no tolerance whatsoever for the behavior alleged in this incident. We are sorry that anything of this nature could have occurred on one of our ships. We place enormous value on the trust our guests have in us, and nothing is more important to us than the safety and security of each and every one of our guests.”
Two weeks after Sofyan’s arrest, WKMG Local 6 published a story in which former Disney Cruise Line security officer Dawn Taplin was interviewed regarding her experiences while working for the cruise line that seems to contradict Disney Cruise Line’s company policy regarding the handling of such incidents.
According to Taplin, in August 2012, an 11-year-old girl reported that a Disney dining server grabbed her breast and kissed her in an elevator on the Disney Dream. Shortly after the incident, Taplin interviewed the girl and watched a video of the attack on the ship’s surveillance cameras. After notifying the ship’s second-in-command about the attack, Taplin alleged that she suggested calling her former co-workers at the Port Canaveral Police Department, or a contact with the F.B.I. in Brevard County.
In response to her offer, Taplin was ordered to “just keep [her] mouth shut.” It was not until the next day, after the ship had left U.S. waters, that Disney Cruise Line reported the incident to the Port Canaveral police, the FBI, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Shortly after the attack, Taplin resigned from Disney Cruise Line, citing numerous conflicts with the ship’s management team.
Preventing and controlling crime on board ships is one of the biggest problems that the cruise ship industry faces. Every year, dozens of cruise ship passengers fall victim to physical and sexual assaults onboard cruise ships at the hands of crew members and other passengers.
According to FBI statistics, in 2007, there were 207 criminal incidents reported by the U.S. Coast Guard and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) that year. However, as this blog has mentioned, that number is likely much higher. At the time the report was issued in 2007, there had already been 41 reported instances of sexual assault accounting for fifty-five percent of the violent crimes that were reported. Further, there were a reported thirteen assaults resulting in “serious bodily injury.”
Cruise companies have a duty to provide a safe environment for their passengers and the failure to do so may entitle the injured party to compensation. The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing the victims of cruise ship crimes for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a crime while on a cruise ship, contact the Miami cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.