Cruise ship vacations often give passengers a false sense of security. There’s no police presence on board, but crewmembers in security uniforms give the impression of safety. While there are typically hundreds of passengers, certain areas of the vessel have less traffic. Dark corners and empty corridors combined with the over-serving of alcohol make for vulnerable circumstances for cruise ship passengers. Sexual assault and rape are, unfortunately, a common occurrence on cruise lines. Victims have legal options to press charges, but it’s essential to understand your rights and the statute of limitations.
Our attorney, John H. (Jack) Hickey specializes in cruise ship sexual assault and rape claims and is double board-certified in Admiralty and Maritime Law. This is a traumatic and devastating time for victims, and Hickey Law Firm can help you navigate the legal process to make sure the perpetrator and cruise line are held accountable.
Passenger Rights on a Cruise Ship
The 2010 Cruise Ship Vessel Security Act (CVSSA) established passenger rights on a cruise ship. The CVSSA provides legal requirements for safety and crime prevention measures. If a sex crime does occur, the law also outlines the actions the cruise line must take to help victims of sexual assault on a cruise ship, including:
- The right to a copy of the security guide, which outlines where and to whom the crime is reported along with the legal procedures for all waters the ship passes through and U.S. embassy locations
- The right to a sexual assault forensic exam
- The right to confidential support services and medical care
- The right to contact the FBI while onboard the cruise ship
The FBI has jurisdiction if these sex crimes occur on a cruise ship or seagoing vessel that is owned in part or wholly by an American company. The FBI is also involved if the victim or perpetrator is a citizen of the United States, the assault took place when the ship was within 12 miles of the U.S. coast, as well as cruise voyages that involve one or more U.S. ports or the rape involved a U.S. citizen and took place on international waters.
In addition to FBI involvement, you can pursue civil action to hold the cruise line financially responsible and reduce the monetary burden associated with sex crimes such as physical and psychological medical care.
It’s also essential to understand the statute of limitations for filing a claim, which is outlined in the terms of your ticket. This time frame can require you to file a civil lawsuit in as little as 180 days. You must submit the claim in the appropriate court system, which is often Federal Court in Miami, Florida.
Join our Cruise Ship Injury & Assault Facebook Group to receive resources and support from fellow cruise ship injury victims.
Steps to Take After Sexual Assault on a Cruise Ship
The steps you take immediately following sexual assault or rape on board a cruise ship will determine the strength of your case against the perpetrator and cruise line. These steps include:
- Report the Crime Immediately: Notify cruise ship security and go to the infirmary to report the crime.
- Obtain Medical Care Onboard: Wait to shower until you’ve had a forensic exam. Don’t wash clothing and other pieces that may have evidence of sexual assault or rape. Any physical injuries should be treated.
- Gather Names and Contact Information: Collect information about the crewmember(s) involved and any passenger or crew member who saw what happened before, during, and after the assault.
- Take Photos of Physical Injuries and Bruises: This is compelling evidence against the perpetrator and will greatly help your case.
- Demand to Contact the FBI: Prior to the CVSSA, cruise ships weren’t required to notify the FBI or allow them onboard to investigate a crime, but the 2010 law gives you the right to speak to an FBI agent right away.
- Go to the Hospital When You Reach a U.S. Port: Once you disembark, go to the nearest hospital for the appropriate medical treatment and testing for rape.
- Seek Counseling: Rape victims undergo immense psychological trauma on top of physical injuries. Counseling can help you process what’s happened and help you find a path to healing.
- Contact Hickey Law Firm: Our cruise ship sexual assault attorney has worked on both sides of these cases and understands the unethical defenses cruise lines may take facing these civil action claims.
Contact Hickey Law Firm 24/7 About Cruise Ship Sexual Assault and Rape
We’re here to help you through this dark time and make sure those responsible are held accountable for their actions. Hickey Law Firm in Miami is available 24/7 to help victims of cruise ship sexual assault and rape. Contact us today at (305) 371-8000 for a free case evaluation.