In July, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act. On the President’s right side in the Oval Office was Sacramento resident and my friend, Laurie Dishman. On his left side, Laurie’s Congresswoman, Doris Matsui.
The new cruise law involves a remarkable story about the bravery of Laurie Dishman. Laurie went on a Royal Caribbean cruise in February 2006 to celebrate her 35th birthday and her long friendship with her childhood friend, Michelle. But instead of a fun cruise, a janitor with prior complaints of sexual harassment who was working as a part time security guard sexually assaulted Laurie in her cabin.
When Laurie reported the rape, the head of the security department came into her cabin and sat on the bed where the rape occurred. He handed her a statement form to complete and left her in the crime scene. When Laurie was finally permitted to see the ship doctor, he handed her trash bags and told her to return to the cabin and collect her bed linens as evidence.
Royal Caribbean thereafter refused to provide Laurie with copies of her own shipboard medical records or provide her with the name of the cruise line employee who raped her.
In response to this outrageous treatment, Laurie reached out to her Congressional representative in California, Doris Matsui. Congresswoman Matsui answered Laurie’s plea for assistance, and called for a Congressional hearing to investigate the problem with crimes like this on cruise ships.
Congresswoman Matsui Goes after the Cruise Lines
Congresswoman Matsui began an investigation into the cruise industry. She did not like what she found. Royal Caribbean would not initially even commit to installing peep holes in the passenger cabin doors. But Congresswoman Matsui was committed to helping Laurie and she found a number of allies in the House of Representatives, like Ted Poe from Texas, who are strong supporters of victim rights. A sub-committee was formed to look into Laurie’s case and other similar sexual assaults. The sub-committee invited Laurie to testify about her ordeal. But the cruise industry pushed back and tried to strike Laurie as a witness at the Congressional hearing. From the time of the crime until the last hearing, the cruise lines spent $11,000,000 lobbying against the legislation.
As you will learn from the radio show the "Travel Guys Radio," the cruise line tried to wear Laurie down, but Laurie traveled from California to Washington D.C. 21 times at her own expense to tell her story in support of the new cruise safety law. She appeared on the major television networks, cable news, and radio stations – and was interviewed by newspapers throughout the U.S.
The "Travel Guys" interviewed Congresswoman Matsui who describes Laurie’s bravery and the problems other crime victims experienced on foreign flagged cruise ships ("the cruise line didn’t help her at all . . . "). The interview of Congresswoman Matsui starts at 10:20 and ends at 20:10.
Click here to play the radio interview:
Laurie Meets President Obama in the White House
Four and one half years after the crime on the high seas, Laurie was invited with Congresswoman Matsui to the White House by President Obama to watch him sign the new cruise law into effect.
Laurie’s interview starts at 21:20 and ends at 30:00.
You can hear how Laurie went from a victim to a victim’s advocate in order to protect others. As Congresswoman Matui explains, "without Laurie Dishmans in the world this would not have happened."
For information about the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, consider reading:
Consider joining the International Cruise Victims organization. Make a difference!