Articles Tagged with sexual assault

Cruise lines are in the business of making their guests feel safe, at ease, and protected. As many attorneys know (particularly attorneys experienced with maritime law), this is not always the case. A recent news report has shown that one cruise line failed to keep one of its passengers safe from its own employee. This passenger not only received threats by an employee, she also achieved very little headway with convincing local authorities of her plight.

Bahamas Cruise Line Passenger Threatened by Employee

A bachelorette party should be a joyous occasion, one filled with friends, excitement, and memory-making experiences. Unfortunately, this was not the case for one woman who went to celebrate her last few days of singlehood on the Bahamas Paradise Cruise. According to the report, a crew member threatened the woman with rape on numerous occasions. When she slammed the door in his face, he repeated the threats. After a period of a few minutes, the employee disappeared from outside her door.  

Though they do not often make the news, crimes on cruise ships do happen. Sometimes said crimes are serious and life-altering, such as sexual assault. Sexual assaults are, unfortunately, not uncommon aboard cruise ships. Recently, 25-year-old Karen Seechurn pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering the cruise ship cabin of a sleeping passenger and sexually assaulting her. In brief, Seechurn entered the victim’s cabin, groped her and threatened to burn the ship down if she told anyone of the incident. The cruise ship was reported as the Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.

Again, sexual assaults aboard cruise ships are not uncommon. In 2014, alone, three of the leading cruise lines, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian reported 18 cases of sexual assaults and 27 cases of rape against cruise ship passengers.    

Please note that cruise ships do not have law enforcement officials onboard. Yet, you are not without security personnel. Cruise ships employ other forms of security personnel who are typically trained to maintain the safety on cruise ships and to protect evidence of a crime. If you a rape victim of such an offense, it is critical that you report the incident to the FBI as soon as you reasonably can. Ask your cruise line to allow you to contact the FBI. Cruise lines are required to allow passengers to speak to the FBI upon request. Once reported, the FBI will investigate the incident. Of course, the cruise line will want to give the FBI their side of the story. Once your cruise ship has ported, you should visit the nearest rape treatment center.       

Sexual assaults often occur during cruise ship voyages. Just recently, the Royal Bahamas Police Force took a United States citizen into police custody in connection with an alleged sexual assault incident. Both the suspect and the victim were passengers of a cruise ship. This incident was reported shortly after 9:00 a.m. when the female victim informed Bahamian police that she was sexually assaulted. The suspect was arrested and taken into police custody. Given that these crimes are not rare, it is important that victims have certain rights and protections on board cruise ships for when they are, or may have been, victimized. This article will touch on the victim rights expounded in the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.

If you or a loved one is a victim of a crime at sea, it is important that an experienced maritime lawyer is retained for the case. Cruise ship companies have their own lawyers who work for them following an incident and so should you. The Miami maritime lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, PA provide high quality legal representation. For more information call us toll free at 1-877-475-2905 or contact us online.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010

Recently, Brock Christian Hammerstein, 25 years of age, was one of two individuals accused of sexually assaulting a minor on a Dolphin cruise. Once said cruise ship ported, the victim visited a local hospital to report that she was sexually battered. At the time of the assault, the victim and her family were visiting Destin, Florida, and went on one of the Sunset Cruises. While on the cruise, an employee, 22 years of age, served her wine without first requesting her identification.  On the completion of the cruise, said employee invited her back onto the boat. The employee and Hammerstein then took her to the ship’s lower level where they allegedly sexually battered her.  The two men maintain that the victim said she was 24 years of age and that she consented to the sex.     

If you or a loved one is a victim of a crime, it is imperative that you hire an experienced attorney. The Miami crime victim lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, PA are here for you. We are available at 1-877-475-2905 and/or at info@gslawusa.com.

Sexual Assault on Cruise Ships

Sexual assaults on cruises are, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence. The facts are quite scary. One major cruise line recently indicated that there were 173 sexual assaults or rapes reported on their ships during a five-year period. To make matters worse, none of these 173 reports were ever prosecuted. A different major cruise line reported that there are two rapes or sexual assaults per month on each of its cruise ships. Just recently, off the coast of Florida, a cruise line’s steward was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in a cruise ship shower. The steward was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation and sexual battery of a person less than 16 years of age. Investigators maintain that the steward saw the young boy in a ship sauna. The two started talking as they used the facility. To get away from the steward, the boy left the sauna and went to the showers; yet, the steward followed and engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct. 

The Lawsuit

If you wish to file a lawsuit against a cruise line, there are some important rules that you must be aware of. For one, cruise ship tickets that you initially purchase normally have a “forum selection clause” and a “choice of law clause.” These clauses are often printed on the back of the ticket in small font. These clauses specifically indicate in which state the passenger may sue the cruise line, as well as the law that will apply in his or her case. You should strictly adhere to the rules listed on your ticket. Failure to do so may ultimately have your case dismissed. If the cruise ticket has you filing the case in Florida, with Florida law applying, the following rules of law may apply to your situation.       

Instances of rape, sexual assault, and other sex crimes occur frequently on cruise ships. Just last year a cruise ship employee used a master key to enter the room of a female passenger. He hid on the room’s balcony until she returned. On her return to the room, she went to bed and was awakened by the intruder. The crewmember began choking her. The passenger fought for her life in every way she could by biting him and stabbing him with a corkscrew. The passenger was sexually assaulted, punched, and beaten with a laptop and a curling iron. She incurred brain injuries, fractures to her skull, spine, and face, and numerous bite marks. The crewmember even tried to snap the passenger’s neck. The crewmember tried to kill her. He became nervous when other passengers began knocking on the door and jumped off the balcony to the lower level in hopes of getting away. He was eventually caught.

Maritime law holds cruise lines strictly liable for the intentional, wrongful, and criminal acts of their employees. This includes rape and sexual assault. Rules of law governing conduct on cruise ships can be complex. To add to the complexities, cruise ships are governed by federal law, not state law, when the cruise ship is more than three nautical miles out at sea. If you or a loved one is a victim of a crime on a cruise ship, it is important that you seek the representation of an experienced maritime law attorney. The Miami, Florida maritime lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz PA have experience filing claims against all the major cruise lines.

The Cruise Ship Vessel Security Act of 2010

Last December, a Honduran man was arrested after allegedly fondling an 11-year-old girl aboard the Disney Magic cruise ship. The ship disembarked from Port Miami for a weekend long cruise. While aboard the ship, the girl told her parents that the man, 31-year-old Palma Ortega, had fondled her three times. If you or someone you love was the victim of sexual assault on a cruise ship, consider contacting a Miami Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Attorney.

Miami-Dade police are charging Ortega with three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor, and he is being held without bond. Upon detention, Ortega confessed to the crime. In the state of Florida, the lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under 12 is a felony punishable by 25 years to life in prison. The man is also on an immigration hold and may be subject to deportation.

It is not clear yet whether or not Ortega was a crewmember of the Disney cruise line, but regardless, the cruise ship company does not have the best track record of responding to sexual assaults by their crew members. In 2013, a similar event took place, where an 11-year-old girl was groped by a dining room employee on the Disney Dream cruise ship while the ship was docked at Port Canaveral. Local police could not arrest the man because Disney did not report the assault until the next day. Instead of receiving justice, the man was sent back to his home country of India.

Recently, a passenger sued Carnival Cruise ship on account of suffering a sexual assault by an unidentified individual while using the ladies’ restroom in the ship and alleged that, in spite of reporting the incident to the support staff on the same day, no active measure was taken by the cruise ship crew or personnel. Our team of Miami cruise ship lawyers are not surprised. This brings to light the fact that sexual assaults on cruise ships are not uncommon at all.

What to Do if You are Sexually Assaulted on a Cruise Ship

If you and/or the perpetrator of a sexual assault is an American national and the ship sails from or to a U.S. port, then the FBI will have jurisdiction over the case. In other circumstances, it is more complicated to determine which agency—or even which country—has jurisdiction. The location of the vessel, the nationality of the perpetrator or victim, ownership of the vessel, the points of embarkation and debarkation, and the country in which the vessel is flagged may all have an effect on jurisdiction.

A lawsuit based in maritime has been filed in the brutal beating of a cruise passenger that we mentioned on our blog a few weeks ago. With the filing of the lawsuit, the victim’s attorney has revealed the carelessness of the cruise line that contributed to the vicious attack. Our Florida maritime law firm is monitoring the case closely.

The Horrific Attack

The case stems from a  Holland America cruise ship passenger was brutally beaten by a Holland America employee, who apparently had a master key and used it to gain entry into the victim’s cabin. The employee tried to strangle the woman with a phone cord, smashed her with a laptop and other blunt objects, and even tried to throw her overboard. She was also sexually assaulted. At one point, her oxygen supply was completely cut off from the choking. The entire attack lasted about an hour, until the victim managed to escape the cabin into the hallway.