This week, I noticed that #metoo and #whyididntreportit were trending on Twitter, as a result of the controversy surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing.

Professor Ford and other women are coming forward to the Senate hearing today to allege that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted them and/or condoned sexual misconduct at parties while they were in high school or college.  The victims deserve to have their experiences considered and not denied simply because they occurred decades ago when they were teenagers.

I noticed that several #metoo and #whyididntreportit tweets involved women (and at least one man) who stated that they were sexually abused on cruise ships, either as a passenger or as a crew member. All these individuals were publicly disclosing the incidents for the first time in their lives. All the incidents occurred many years ago, with some of the sexual assaults occurring as long as three to four decades ago.

“Jane Doe” – Crew Member Aboard the SS Universe – “Afraid I Would Be Thrown Overboard at Night”

One woman, now 50 years old, who wishes to be identified only by her first name, Jazmin, tweeted that a cruise ship officer sexually assaulted her in 1989:

She revealed to me that she worked as a cosmetologist on the SS Universe (photo above, taken in August 1989), which was operated at the time by World Explorer Cruises to ports in Alaska.

“I was out late with my friends and returned to my cabin around midnight. There was a note under my door to go to the bridge because I had an emergency phone call.  This was quite alarming because back then, no one received phone calls at sea unless it was serious. I raced up to the bridge and was greeted by a man who I recognized as someone close to the captain. I don’t know what his exact position was but he wore a uniform and was some type of officer. He was probably around 10 years older than me, maybe 33.  Frantic, I handed him the note, and started asking lots of questions. He was quiet and led me back into a cabin and closed the door. Naively I still wasn’t aware of what was going on. I continued to press for answers and was now in tears, fearing that a family member as in trouble. At that point he put his arms on my shoulders and started to force himself onto me.  I resisted him. He chased me around the room and kept trying to pin me down.  I threw objects in his direction and he stumbled, and I escaped the cabin.

After the incident occurred, I ran to my friend’s cabin, told him what happened and asked what I should do.  Many times, we had witnessed the crew throwing garbage and large machinery (washing machines etc.) overboard into the ocean in the middle of the night.  He warned me that they could easily do that to me.  I felt like I needed to tell someone, my boss or at least the cruise director but after talking with my friend, I was scared into silence.  I feared for my life and always watched my back on the ship.”

Jazmin explained that she initially felt guilty about what happened.  “I remember thinking what did I do to provoke this?  Did I stare at his uniform emblems too long when he was on stage? Was my outfit not conservative enough?

She chose to disclose the assault now because she feels empowered by her family and wants to set an example for he daughter. “I think it is important to talk about it now … I have two children. Now that my daughter is a teenager, I think it’s important that she be aware and not be fearful. I encourage her to share everything with me.”

Ruth Anne Phillips – 10 Year Old Guest – HAL’s Rotterdam – “I Speak Up Now For My Ten Year Old Self”

Another woman broke her 45-year silence when she recently tweeted:

Ms. Phillips explained her ordeal to me in detail:

“I was ten years old in 1974 . . . it was very important to my parents that we experience the world and other cultures and after scrimping and saving, they took us on a year-long trip and cultural adventure to Europe. It was a very exciting time for me and my four brothers. We ranged in age 4 through 15. (photo of family below).

The first part of our trip we took a train to New York from Los Angeles. My parents were able to get a really good price for a transatlantic cruise on the Rotterdam (operated by Holland American Line from 1959 to 1997). To be able to do this was a once in a lifetime experience and my parents were so excited and their enthusiasm was contagious.

The Rotterdam was huge but there were not a lot of activities for children other than the pool. My brothers and I took off and basically had the run of the ship. I remember that most of the crew were not Americans and my parents told us that they were from a ‘faraway island’ . . .  they were drawn to me and two of my brothers who also had blond hair. They would touch us on the head all of the time – so much so, it was disconcerting. My parents told us that they were not used to seeing people with blond hair and that to touch it was considered good luck. I do not know if that was true or not, but we accepted it as fact.

Toward the middle of the cruise I was exploring by myself. I did that a lot. My brothers didn’t like hanging out with their sister – so that was not unusual. Parents back then were very lenient, and we always ran free – even at home, when we were told to be back when the streetlights came on. On the ship, we were told to be back for dinner. One day, I got lost and I was wandering the halls looking for our cabin or someplace I would recognize, and I was getting distressed when I was approached by one of the crew.

Looking back, I would say he was probably in his thirties. He asked me if he could help me and I told him I was lost. He said that he knew where my cabin was, and he would take me there. Instead he took me into a small office and molested me. He groped me and put my hand on his penis. He kissed me and put his tongue in my mouth. I became a limp doll. I did not fight our scream or do anything. I was sitting on his lap while he did this to me. After he removed himself from my body, he said, ‘thank you.’

It was grotesque that he thanked me after what he had done; like I had somehow given him permission. I got off his lap and went to the door, opened it and ran out. He did not try to stop me.

Remarkably, I found our cabin and I remember hiding under the covers on the bed and I shook uncontrollably. I was dry heaving. One of my brothers found me and told me it was dinner time. I told him I wasn’t going. My mother came in and asked me what was wrong, and I tried to tell her, but it was impossible. I did not have the words to say what had happened, but I told her that I had been kissed by one of the crew members. She left and when she came back, she said that she had spoken to my father and they thought it had to do with my blond hair and the culture of the crew member. They said I was confused and that a kiss wasn’t a big deal.  They made me get dressed to go to dinner.

We were served duck with grape sauce on it. Funny what you remember and what you don’t. When we got back to the room, I vomited all night. To this day, I have a visceral reaction if someone is serving or eating duck.

My parents and I never spoke of what happened ever again. I never pursued it and it seemed that if I did, I would have ruined everyone’s trip. I would have been responsible for destroying our grand adventure. I like to think that my parents were simply naïve but, sometimes, I think that they didn’t want the adventure ruined either and that they wanted what happened to just go away.”

The childhood assault on the cruise ship seems to have had a long term effect on Ms. Phillips, who described being sexually assaulted as a 7th grader during her junior high school in California, being drugged and raped in college, and being a victim of sexual harassment and assault when she began working as a firefighter at age 48.

She is now 54 years-old and is married with five children. She explained that she struggled with unresolved anger and self-loathing most of her life. “I was weak and vulnerable. I know most people do not think of me that way. But I do. I think that what happened to me at ten affected me for the rest of my life. Inside, I think that my parents didn’t fight for me and I didn’t know how to fight for myself. I lived my life thinking that I was worthless.”

“I have struggled with hurt, anger and rage, and I attempted suicide in the past. That is why I speak up now. I have been part of a whole culture of complicity. My parents were scared, and I was scared too. I was scared my whole life. I am not scared anymore. When we speak up, we are attacked and vilified. We are called liars. My soul was stolen from me and the silence simply made it worse. I speak up now for my ten-year-old self, my twelve-year-old self, my nineteen-year-old self and my fifty year old self. “

My Perspective on Sexual Assaults on Cruise Ships

We have represented over 100 women and/or children sexually assaulted on cruise ships over the last 15 years. Approximately one-third of these crimes involved children, which is consistent with Congressional testimony from experts.  Of course, children rarely immediately report being a victim of sexual abuse while on the ship. Many children suppress violent, sexual memories for a lifetime. If they are going to disclose the sexual abuse, children usually first disclose the sexual abuse only once they return home and/or after their parents or caretakers observe the child demonstrating a change in behavior after the cruise.

Many women also report the sexual assault only after the cruise.  The crime typically occurs on the last night of the cruise and many victims simply want to get off the ship and as far as possible away from the location of the scene of the assault. A shipboard safety officer investigating a report by a guest that she was raped by a crew member represents an inherent conflict of interest.

One of our clients was drugged and raped on the last evening of the cruise and returned home in a state of anxiety and confusion. She first contacted us several weeks later after she became frustrated when there was no response to her complaints to the local police or the cruise line, and after the FBI investigation went nowhere, like most FBI investigations do. The cruise line bartender, who drugged and raped her, and was fired, subsequently applied for work on another line (Princess Cruises) and was accepted for employment.

As part of her self-empowerment, she was interviewed by Time magazine and she later testified before Congress regarding her ordeal.

In our experience, the majority of women who contact our office are not seeking to file a lawsuit for compensation but are frustrated by the “denial, shame and blame” culture that permeates our law enforcement and criminal law system.  (None of the victims mentioned in this article-initiated contact with this firm nor have they even asked if there is a basis for compensation).

Of the 100 or so sexual assault cases involving passengers we have handled, only in four instances (all involving minors) have the crew members served jail time.  The vast majority of crimes are not prosecuted, and many are not even investigated by law enforcement. No cases involving a crew member victim have resulted in jail time for the crew member assailant.

We have attended Congressional hearings where the FBI has acknowledged that less than 7% of sexual assaults result in prosecution and convictions. The low percentages of cases which are reported and/or result in convictions mirror statistics regarding land-based crimes. Plus, there are problems unique to cruise ships, such as jurisdictional issues, the loss or destruction of evidence at sea, delayed investigations by law enforcement, and the absence of police on the increasingly huge “cities at sea.”

The #metoo movement may be resulting in a trend toward more frequent reporting of sexual assault.  The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) cruise crime portal shows that reports of sexual assaults on cruise ships have increased in the last year by over 20%.  Sexual crimes on cruise ship have historically been substantially under-reported and vastly under-counted even when they are reported according to Congressional reports.

Its a good thing that women are now increasingly empowered to reveal what happened to them in the past.

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Photo credit: Bottom – Family photo (family blurred) aboard the Rotterdam – Ruth Anne Phillips; Middle – SS Rotterdam – John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland., Public Domain, commons / wikimedia; Universe – and Jazmin aboard Universe cruise ship – top and middle – Jasmin.

According to the Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda, a 27 year old passenger is accused of sexually assaulting a person on an unidentified cruise ship last Friday, August 10, 2018.

According to the article titled Cruise Passenger Accused of Sex Assault, a 27-year-old man from New Jersey, “who cannot be named for legal reasons,” pleaded not guilty of assaulting another guest on a cruise ship, in Magistrates’ Court in Bermuda yesterday. The assault is alleged to have happened on a cruise ship at the dockyard in Sandys, in the western part of Bermuda.

The criminal magistrate in Bermuda released the cruise passenger on a $10,000 bail on the conditions that he hand over his passport and avoid contact with his victim.

Bermuda has archaic procedures which purportedly prohibit newspapers from mentioning the name of alleged rapists or sexual offenders in the press. The newspapers also choose not to disclose the name of either the cruise line or the cruise ship involved in an alleged crime like this. There obviously is no such prohibition under U.S. law in naming rape suspects, and it serves no public purpose to hide the names of corporations, vessels or maritime employers when crimes occur during cruises.

Not coincidentally, Bermuda is one of the countries where cruise lines register their ships in order to avoid U.S. taxes and labor and safety laws.  Princess Cruises, for example, is incorporated in Bermuda.

Passengers who commit rapes during cruises to Bermuda often have to been extradicted back to the U.S. in order to face criminal charges. In September of last year, a 30 year old man from Mississippi allegedly raped a 15 year old boy. The crime was revealed only after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed criminal charges and extradicted the man back to the U.S. and issued press releases in the process.

As I mentioned in the article titled More Reefer Madness from Bermuda’s Kangaroo Courts, Bermuda has a strange sense of priorities. Its press delights in publishing the names and photographs of vacationers, caught through the use of what would be illegal search procedures in the U.S., with a joint or two in the cabin safe to be smoked for recreational use on the high seas (an issue the cruise line security should deal with).  But Bermuda seems indifferent to prosecuting rapists and criminals involved in violent crimes on Bermuda flagged ships. Criminal charges against crew members who are alleged to have committed sexual crimes are often dropped.

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Photo credit: Google Maps

Sexual Assault Royal CaribbeanSurveillance video on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas shows an attack on a 13 year old boy by two adult passengers.

The men, identified by local Miami news station NBC 4 as Martinez and Lawson, corner the teenager in the ship’s library, before pinning him against the bookcase. The boy had apparently made an inappropriate comment earlier during the cruise to to Lawson’s daughter (Martinez’s niece).

In retaliation, the men confronted the minor, with Martinez taking off his shirt and sexually assaulting the minor, according to the article titled Teen’s Assault on Cruise Ship Caught on Surveillance Camera.

The minor’s mother reportedly said about the attack on her son: “He physically punched him, choked him, smothered his face in the pillow, pulled his clothes off, was on top of my son.”

The Sun Sentinel covered the disturbing story shortly after it occurred back in January of 2016.

The family of the boy is represented by another maritime lawyer here in Miami.

Royal Caribbean said “the ship’s crew has no duty to monitor the cameras . . . ”

A criminal judge sentenced Martinez to three years in prison for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16, and sentenced Lawson to two years in prison sentence for child abuse.

The article mentions that in 2016-2017, 69 percent of crimes committed on board cruise ships were sexual assaults. The chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), Ken Carver, told NBC 4 that “a third of all the rapes on cruise ships are on minors, if you can believe that.” You can read the 2013 Congressional cruise crime report with this alarming statistic here.

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Photo credit: Broward Country Sheriff’s Office via Sun Sentinel; video credit: NBC 4.

Canada recently issued a new crime advisory for the Bahamas, warning its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling there due to high rates of crime, including a reported increase of sexual assaults against tourists. 

Canada’s website advisory was updated last week to state that sexual assaults occur regularly, primarily in New Providence (Nassau) and on Grand Bahama (Freeport):  

"Crime, including violent crime, occurs mainly on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama. There has been an increase in muggings, armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault targeting tourists in the cities of Nassau and Freeport. Incidents of robbery take place in cruise ship Nassau Bahamas Cruise Terminalterminals and in and around popular resort areas, even in daylight hours. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Avoid non-tourist neighbourhoods in downtown Nassau, especially at night, where the crime accounts for much of Bahamas’ high murder rate. 

Sexual assault occurs frequently, particularly near hotels, in hotel rooms, in casinos, on cruise ships and on the beach. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, do not consume any drugs and don’t accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers. Due to incidents of sexual assault, it is recommended to be wary when embarking on jet-ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators."

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the U.S. warning to its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while traveling to the Bahamas. 

The Nassau Guardian covered the new advisory for Canadian tourists. The nation’s Tourism Minister downplayed the crime advisory during an interview with the Tribune newspaper, saying that "when I go to London, when I go to Paris, when I go to New York, I probably have just the same likelihood of being a victim of crime."  As I have said before, this is a common although misleading argument. The per capita murder and rape rates in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the per capita rate in the majority of U.S. and European cities. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Canada has issued critical crime report for the Bahamas several times in the last several years,

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas. You can read a few of our articles here and here

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Photo credit: Jerrye and Roy Klotz MD CC 3.0 commons / wikipedia.  

There are around 750,000 (some say the number is over 850,000) sexual offenders registered in the United States. Many thousands of these sexual offenders go on cruises each year. Some cruise lines do not permit registered offenders to cruise, but many if not most cruise lines do. 

Another lawyer here in Miami recently wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post about this important issue, titled Should Cruise Ships Allow Sexual Offenders to Sail? 

The article points out, believe it or not, that there is a travel-related resource which caters to registered sexual offenders called Resources for RSO Travels, which published a blog post Can Registered Sex Offenders Go on a Cruise? The article answers its own question, writing "the answer is YES!" but further explains that there are some cruise line which block sexual offenders from cruising:

" . . . here are the two cruise lines that are notoriously known for denying registered sex offenders: Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Here are the cruise lines that allow registered sex offenders to board the ship: Norwegian, MSC, Holland America."

When I read the article, I find it disturbing that the registered offenders’ blog characterized Royal Caribbean and Carnival as "notorious" for prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising and not characterizing NCL, MSC and HAL as "notorious" for permitting sexual predators to board their cruise ships. I suppose that’s part of the problem with many sexual offenders. Even after being criminally convicted of their sexual crimes and placed on the National Sex Offender Public Website, they think Sexual Offender Cruise Shipthat they really didn’t do anything wrong and they should be entitled to the same privileges as people who didn’t commit sexual crimes. 

I have represented far too many people sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including dozens of children sexually abused during cruises, to have any tolerance for sexual offenders protesting that they were not permitted to cruise. 

Some men go on cruises for the primary purpose of abusing children. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a 71 year old man from Pennsylvania (photo left) who cruised on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas and went went into the cruise ship’s water zone and fondled a 6-year-old boy. He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. At a hearing before a Federal Magistrate in Pennsylvania, an FBI agent testified that the pedophile admitted that he went on the cruise to "have a sexual encounter with a young boy." (There was no indication that the man was on a sexual offender database at the time of the cruise; shortly after this incident Royal Caribbean starting performing background checks of passengers).  The man was convicted, served jail time and when released from jail he attempted to molest other children

But don’t expect the U.S. government or port authorities (at either the state or national levels) to perform background checks and prevent sexual offenders from cruising.  Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection may arrest sexual predators who have an outstanding warrants but they usually do so only after the cruise ship returns to port. 

For example, a 28 year-old man (photo right) was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa a few years ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of Sexual Assault Outstanding Warrantpassengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested the passenger only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship.

If you take a cruise, you may be cruising with at least one felon aboard. U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested five passengers on outstanding warrants only after the Carnival Magic returned to port in Galveston several years ago. 

Cruise lines should do everything possible to keep pedophiles, sexual predators and sexual offenders  off of cruise ships. Yes, I realize that all sexual offenders are not pedophiles or technically "sexual predators" (who by definition must have been convicted of a first degree sexual crime or multiple lesser sexual crimes). But it is a step in the right direction for cruise lines to perform background checks on passengers to screen out such people convicted of sexual crimes.

Over the years, I have received many questions from people wanting to go on a cruise asking whether registered sexual offenders are allowed to cruise.  Usually, their inquires are anonymous. They claim that a "friend" is thinking of going on a cruise. They explain that their "friend" is a "really nice guy" who made a mistake a "long time ago" and is now "no threat to anyone" and other similar gobbledygook. 

A particularly annoying occurrence is when a registered sexual offender complains to me that they booked a cruise and received an email at the last minute that they are prohibited from going on the cruise. I have received many of these type of inquiries over the last several months from men convicted of sexual crimes and listed as registered offenders wanting to cruise with Carnival.  Although the cruise line always refunds their fares, several people have complained that they have been "inconvenienced" and want to see if they a lawsuit for being a victim of "discrimination."

I do not respond to such inquires, which have involved to date only people who had booked cruises with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and were notified by these cruise lines that they had been identified on a sexual offender database. The registered offenders who contact my law office remind me that most families who cruise have no idea who they are cruising with.  So kudos to Carnival and Royal Caribbean for keeping known sexual offenders off their ships and trying to keep their guests safe. Shame on the other cruise lines who don’t perform such background checks.  

The bottom line is that there is no law to my knowledge prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising. Even if there were such a law, our federal government does a poor job vetting passenger manifests and probably would not find out until after the cruise ship leaves port. Its up to the cruise lines to screen their passengers and most cruise lines don’t. It seems like only Carnival and Royal Caribbean do. 

Keep in mind that most of the sexual assaults of passengers are committed by crew members.  Few countries other than the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia have sexual offender databases, and very few countries have any online databases permitting any cruise line or hiring agents from knowing whether job applicants from the countries where crew members are hired (India, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands) have been arrested or convicted of sexual or violent crimes. (And of course passengers from non U.S. countires without sexual offender databases cannot be screened). 

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November 4, 2017 Update: A reader on our Facebook page commented that Carnival is already partnering with INTERPOL for enhanced security screening using INTERPOL’S I-Checkit global security system . . . Read the link here.

Photo credit:

Top –  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bottom – U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Baltic PrincessAn international maritime newspaper reports that the police department in Sweden arrested a passenger aboard the Baltic Princess on September 30th for raping a younger woman aboard a ferry. The arrest took place when the ship arrived in Värtahamnen, a port in Stockholm, Sweden.  The man was apprehended by security guards on the ferry and then turned over to the police. The woman has been transported to the hospital for examination. Both the woman and the suspected offender were reportedly Finnish citizens.

The Baltic Princess is a cruise ship / ferry owned by the Estonia-based ferry operator Tallink and operated under the Silja Line brand.

Photo credit:  Kalle Id, CC by 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Adam ChristopherOn August 30, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed criminal charges against a man reportedly from Bay Springs, Mississippi for allegedly raping a 15-year-old boy on a NCL cruise ship during a seven-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. The sexual assault reportedly occurred on August 14, 2017 while the cruise ship was docked in Bermuda, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston.* 

The incident was first reported by the newspapers in Bermuda, including Bernews and the Royal Gazette, which did not mention of name of the assailant or the cruise ship where the incident occurred. The newspapers in Bermuda, which typically do a poor job of reporting about crimes on cruise ships, did not provide any details regarding the alleged shipboard crime.  

The federal court filing in federal court in Boston (see below) indicates that the United States charged Adam Christopher Boyd, age 30, with one count of sexual abuse of a minor. Mr. Boyd was arrested in Bermuda and faces extradition back to the United States. The court filing indicates that the cruise ship where the rape occurred is the Norwegian Dawn. According to an affidavit from a FBI agent in support of the criminal charges and arrest warrant, the Dawn arrived at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda on August 13, 2017 where it was scheduled to spend three days before returning to Boston.

The FBI affidavit states that before the rape, the 15-year-old boy was drinking alcohol on deck 13 of the ship with other passengers who he met during the cruise.  Mr. Boyd met the child and informed him that he was an hairdresser and offered to braid the child’s hair. Mr. Boyd reportedly asked the child his age and the boy said he was 15-years-old. The FBI reportedly later interviewed another passenger who stated that Mr. Boyd asked him if the boy was really just 15-years-old, and the passenger confirmed that the minor was, in fact, 15-years-old and not 18 as Mr. Boyd later claimed.  

According to the court filing, Mr. Boyd volunteered to escort the boy back to his cabin and offered the boy to stay in Mr. Boyd’s cabin which the child declined. The ship’s surveillance footage reportedly showed Mr. Boyd and the boy leaving deck 13 early in the morning of August 14th; another passenger verified that the boy appeared to be intoxicated at the time. When they reached a secluded area of deck 14, Mr. Boyd kissed the child and put his hands down the minor’s pants and felt his genitals, following which he anally raped the child, according to the affidavit.  After the incident, the boy told a group of other teenagers who he previously met during the cruise, that he had been sexually assaulted. He also he told the police in Bermuda, who later came onto the ship to investigate the incident, that he had been "raped."

The court filing further indicates that other passengers stated that later that morning they saw the boy sitting by himself on deck 13, appearing upset and crying.  The child eventually returned to his cabin and reported the sexual assault to his family who alerted the ship’s security personnel who, in turn, notified the police in Bermuda. The local police took the child to a hospital where a rape kit was administered. The police arrested Mr. Boyd who denied that penetrated the child.

The FBI agent, who prepared the affidavit, stated that she believed that there was probable cause that Mr. Boyd violated Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2243(a) which defines sexual abuse as knowingly engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor who has not attained the age of 16 and is four years or more younger than the assailant. The sexual abuse of a minor carries a jail sentence of five to fifteen years and a fine of up to $250,000. 

Sexual assaults of minors on cruise ships is an issue which I write about often; last month NBC News aired an investigation into the sexual assault of minors on cruise ships – NBC News: Hidden Dangers for Children on Cruise Ships. We have written about boys as well as girls being victimized during cruises, not only by crew members but by other adult passengers. Cruise lines are in the business of selling carefree, dream vacations to idyllic destinations; the cruise industry will never warn passengers of the dangers of their children encountering predator crew members or pedophile passengers. 

The U.S. government has jurisdiction to prosecute cases of rape on cruise ships when a U.S. citizen is involved, as either the victim or the assailant.  The criminal charge in federal court in a case of rape of a child is characterized as the "sexual abuse" of a minor; there are no criminal federal statutes for "rape" or "sexual assault."  

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Photo credit: Rap Sheets – of Adam Boyd for arrest on charges of driving under the influence in Mississippi in August 2015. 

*Note: The Department of Justice writes: "The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."  

September 26, 2017 Update: Passenger from Mississippi finally about to be extradicted back to the U.S. to face criminal charges.

 

 

Jim Walker Cruise Law Sexual AssaultLast night, NBC Nightly News aired part 2 of its investigation into sexual assaults on cruise ships.

NBC interviewed me during the investigation. We have handled over 100 cases of sexual assault; approximately one third of the victims have been children. This is essentially the assault rate of minors that experts testified to during prior Congressional hearings.  

The common comment we hear is that parents need to supervise their children while on cruises. This may be true, but sexual assaults can take place even when the most attentive parents are involved. Children have been assaulted during cruises in shipboard childcare facilities as well as in their cabins by cabin attendants who meet the children and their family members during the cruise.

Another common scenario is older passengers who have access to alcohol and target underage girls during the cruise.

When an assault occurs, the FBI routinely does not follow up with their initial investigation and interview of the victim. Prosecutions of shipboard predators by the U.S. Department of Justice are rare.   

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Photo credit: NBC Nightly News  

On Sunday, July 2, 2017, NBC Nightly News aired the first part of an investigative report into the issue of sexual assaults on cruise ships.

Over the course of three months, NBC News spoke with 10 victims of sexual assaults, or members of their families, and found that cruise ships pose hidden dangers.

“Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never NBC News Cruise Ship Sexual Assaultprosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults.”

NBC interviewed me, as well as another maritime lawyer in Miami Michael Winkleman, during their investigation. You can see a portion of the interview in the video below.

The program highlights the fact that the FBI usually does not conduct a full investigation when women and children are victimized on foreign flagged cruise shhips. Prosecutions by the Department of Justice are even rarer. As a result, the cycle of sexual violence remains a problem on cruises.

The second part of the investigation airs this evening on NBC News.

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Ths week NBC News published an article titled Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18. Over three months, NBC News spoke with ten victims of sexual assaults and/or members of their families. The news organization found that a significant number of victims of rape and molestation on cruise ships are under 18 years of age.

NBC reported:

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never prosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults."

NBC interviewed me during its investigation.  We have represented 100 women and children, including families of  boys, who were sexually assaulted on cruise ships; around 35 vcitims were teenages and children with many victims under the age of ten with some as young as three years old. 

You can read more about sexual assault of children on cruise ships here

Interested in this issue? Read the recent article Sexual assault victims on cruise ships are often minors.

NBC will be airing its special on TV this weekend on the NBC Nightly News. Below is a portion of the special. 

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