Monthly Archives: June 2017

Proudly Representing Cruise Ship Cases in Miami, Nearby Areas of Florida and Nationwide

A day after NBC News published a cruise ship sexual assault exposé on its website, the news outlet follows up with a NBC Nightly News report detailing the crimes.

In the segment, which is embedded here and can be found on the NBC News website, eight families with members who suffered from rape and sexual assault aboard cruise ships are profiled. A number of the victims were teenage girls, aged 12 to 15.

As noted in yesterday’s blog, approximately 67% of the crimes reported aboard cruise ships in 2013 were sexual crimes such as sexual assault and rape. Additionally, as there is no actual police force aboard cruise ships, it is difficult to determine the exact number of crimes which occur aboard cruise ships every year.

Cruise ship rape and sexual assault constitute a serious issue which affects dozens of people every year, primarily women and children.

Despite these undeniable facts, the report includes a negation of the seriousness of the problem by the cruise industry’s top lobbying organization, cruise lines international Association, Inc. (CLIA). CLIA asserts that crime on cruise ships is rare and that, when compared to crimes on land, cruise ship crime amounts to only a “small fraction”.

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Many people are surprised to learn that sexual assault is the most commonly reported crime aboard cruise ships. The vast majority of victims of these crimes are women and children, often teenage girls. Today an NBC News article tackles this disturbing trend.

The piece profiled 42-year-old Anne Smith, who took her two daughters on a Caribbean cruise. As the cruise was winding down, her 16-year-old daughter told Smith that she believed the ship’s personal trainer had molested her while taking her measurements after a personal training session. "It was my final consultation to see how I had improved and so he took my measurements and he was like lifting my shirt and all that and pulling down my shorts," she told NBC News. Though an investigation was conducted, no charges were ever filed against the alleged perpetrator.

The article states that out of 92 crimes reported aboard cruise ships in 2016, 62 were for sexual assault, an equivalent of about 67%. The article goes on to state that a 2013 congressional report found that a third of victims were minors.

As with all sexual assaults, there are certain steps victims of cruise ship sexual assault should follow. These steps include:

1. Report it to the ships infirmary and demand a rape kit exam.  Do this before you take a shower.

2. Contact the FBI while you are still on the ship. The ships officers are supposed to facilitate this communication.  Talk to the FBI yourself. The cruise line personnel will give a biased, sometimes inaccurate description.

3. Take photos and preserve evidence. You cannot depend on the cruise line to do this. 

4. Get the names, street addresses, email addresses, and cell numbers of all witnesses to all aspects of what happened.

5. Get counseling when you get off the ship.

 

 

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Italian newspapers are reporting that the case of a missing cruise ship worker is being investigated as a possible homicide.

Yesterday we blogged that a cruise ship worker had gone missing from the MCS Musica cruise ship earlier this week. Today an Italian newspaper identified the missing worker as a 35 year old Brazilian woman named Simone Scheuer Sousa.

The article says that Italian police have secured recordings from the ships security cameras as part of their investigation. They have also reportedly interviewed people who were in contact with her before her disappearance. It is not currently known if Sousa left the ship before it’s disembarkation from Venice.

The criminal investigation into Sousa’s disappearance comes on the heels of high profile allegations against the cruise industry, made by the parents of missing cruise ship worker Rebecca Coriam. Coriam went missing from the Disney Wonder cruise ship in 2011, as it sailed between Mexico and California.

Disney suggested that Coriam may have been washed off of the ship by a so-called “freak wave”. In recent weeks Coriam’s family has publicly accused Disney of not cooperating in the investigation into her disappearance, and have revealed that two of Rebecca’s fellow crew members told them that she had expressed concerns that a male cruise member may be targeting her for sexual assault.

The Coriams believe that Rebecca was sexually assaulted and then thrown from the cruise ship.

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Earlier this week a cruise ship crew member was reported missing from the vessel on which he  or she worked, prompting a search which ultimately failed to turn up signs of the missing worker.

According to published reports, the crew member went missing from the MCS Musica ship on June 21 as the ship traveled from Venice to Brindisi. The ship reportedly went back to search for the missing worker, and the National Center for Search and Rescue Operations at Sea called on ships in the area for additional assistance in looking for the victim. After approximately an hour’s search, the ship continued on to its destination.

The cruise industry has come under renewed scrutiny as of late, as a result of the publication of allegations made by the parents of missing cruise worker Rebecca Coriam. Coriam went missing from the Disney cruise ship on which she worked in 2011, and the company’s official explanation of her disappearance never satisfied her parents.

Over the past several days, a number of articles have been published questioning the cruise industry and its handling of disappearances. For years the industry has been criticized for its failure to deploy man overboard technology which would help notify ship authorities when someone has fallen from the ship, and help authorities better pinpoint the location where the victim entered the water.

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Many cruise passengers may be unaware of the fact that, in general, there are no police at sea.The only personnel on cruise ships who keep order are cruise line employees. There are security officers who break up fights and make reports on events. And there is one or 2 safety officers onboard who investigate injury accidents.These people all are direct employees of the cruise line. When they take your statement and ask you (first question) how much have you had to drink, they are looking out for the company. There is no governmental or neutral police force on cruise ships.  And the police on small islands are not trained well and are grossly underpaid. The islands in the caribbean are beholden to the cruise lines. The cruise lines are responsible for a tremendous amount of income to these islands so the police and other governmental officials on the islands will do anything cruise line personnel say.  That is why you need to contact the FBI and make a report as soon as possible even while still onboard the ship. The cruise line is supposed to arrange that. But you and your family should speak with the FBI and not rely or depend on the cruise line to do it. Get the full names and contact information of witnesses. The cruise line will not give those up unless suit is filed. And even then the cruise line may say they did not get the name of witnesses. Take photos of the scene and people and whatever was involved. "A picture is worth a thousand words".  Again, dont rely on the cruise line to do it. These security guards may seem like they have passengers’ best interests in mind, and often times they do. But in cases of cruise ship sexual assault, victims have often complained that cruise security, and indeed cruise officials in general, have been anything but helpful.

Many times, when cruise ship sexual assault victims have complained about cruise officials’ responses to their claims, the accused was a member of the cruise ship crew. Most of these cases seem to be nothing more than cruise personnel covering for the company, as a company employee raping a passenger is not only heinous, but it opens the company up to negative press and financial liabilities.

If you are ever the victim of a cruise ship sexual assault, by all means seek the assistance of onboard authorities. But, do not rely on them completely. For example, you should document the evidence of the incident yourself, and also compile a list of witnesses (complete with name, address, phone, and email). You should insist on speaking to the FBI while still at sea; there is no need to wait until you get back to shore. And though cruise authorities may insist on helping you relate your ordeal to the FBI, you should politely refuse, and instead speak to the FBI yourself.

It is possible that, after an attack, the cruise staff who attends to you may be caring, understanding, and helpful. But it is also instructive to remember that cruise companies are a business, and they have a history of putting profits before people.

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The case of missing Disney cruise worker Rebecca Coriam has taken an unexpected turn, after the Bahamian police released notes about her case this week.

Coriam went missing from the Disney Wonder cruise ship in March 2011. Disney officials explained to Mike and Ann Coriam, Rebecca’s parents, that the 24-year-old had likely been swept off of the ship by a so-called freak wave. But, the Coriams found the explanation extremely implausible.

In the intervening years, the Coriams have continued to fight for more information about what happened to their daughter, even going so far as to hire private investigators and getting British lawmakers involved in the case. Recently, the Coriams indicated that they believed their daughter had been the victim of a sexual assault and subsequently thrown from the ship, perhaps by a male crew member.

Published reports indicate that at least two of Rebecca’s friends had informed the Coriams that, before her disappearance, Rebecca had feared she may be the target of sexual assault by one of her coworkers.

Now, newly published notes from the investigation into Coriam’s disappearance have shed additional light on the case. According to documents from Bahamian police, Rebecca was reportedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a male crew member and an unidentified woman shortly before her disappearance.

The Bahamian police investigation into the disappearance ultimately concluded that it occurred under circumstances that were ‘not suspicious’. Despite the findings, the Coriams continue to fight to learn the truth about their daughter’s disappearance.

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After suffering from a cruise ship rape or sexual assault, victims are often left frightened and confused. Many people simply don’t know what to do next, and for that reason withdrawn to themselves.

Below we offer a list of the steps you should take after suffering cruise ship sexual assault or rape. By following the steps on this list, you will best ensure that you get appropriate treatment as quickly as possible, and prepare yourself to deal with the potentially long-term effects psychological effects of your ordeal.

  1. Before taking a shower or using the restroom, report the incident to the ships infirmary and demand a rape kit exam. The rape kit exam is especially important as it is designed to help collect physical and forensic evidence relating to the assault. This evidence could be crucial in proving the facts of the case later on.
  1. The FBI should be notified of every case of cruise ship sexual assault and rape. Though cruise ship telephone calls can be expensive, you will not be billed for your call to report your case to the FBI. Contact the FBI while you are still on the ship. Do not wait until you get back to shore. The ship’s officers are supposed to facilitate this communication, but you should not allow them to speak to the FBI on your behalf. This is because the cruise line personnel will give a biased, sometimes inaccurate description. Remember to talk to the FBI yourself.
  1. Do not rely on cruise ship security personnel to collect evidence on your behalf. Instead, take photos and preserve evidence relating to your assault. The kind of evidence which could be important includes:
    1. Items of clothing which you war during the attack
    2. Any sheets or linens which may have been involved in the attack
    3. any other physical evidence, such as weapons or other items left behind after the attack
  1. Get the names, street addresses, email addresses, and cell numbers of all witnesses to all aspects of what happened. If possible, have witnesses provide you with a videotaped, audio, or written statement of what they saw.
  1. Get counseling when you get off the ship. Being raped or sexually assaulted is a traumatic experience. Many victims suffer from long lasting physical and psychological scars. Be sure to get expert help when you get back home, in order to best ensure your long term chances for recuperation.
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A report published this week by the website Times of Malta, illustrates the ordeal cruise ship sexual assault and rape victims go through, and just how difficult it can be to fight for justice.

The article profiles a British university student who was allegedly raped while sailing aboard the Celebrity Reflection cruise ship three years ago. On July 23, 2014, as the alleged victim traveled with her parents and younger brother, a fellow passenger allegedly spiked the victim’s drink. He then allegedly raped her.

A 20-year-old student from Scotland was charged with the rape, but in the two years since the alleged perpetrator was charged with the crime, the case has dragged in Maltese court. According to the article, “Very little progress has been registered in the court case against the Scottish student charged with sexually assaulting her after the two met on the Celebrity cruise ship Reflection.”

The victim’s parents expressed their dismay with the Maltese legal system, saying “We had hoped that the Maltese justice system would be similar to that in the UK but our hopes have been shattered as we see days, weeks and months pass by before we are anywhere close to any form of justice.”    

One of the complicating factors in the case is that the alleged incident took place in international waters. Because the ship on which the incident took place is registered in Malta, the case must be heard in Maltese court.

The victim and her parents are finding that, at times, justice for victims of cruise ship rape and sexual assault can be a long and arduous process. In such instances, it is especially important that victims work with experienced legal counsel in order to best prosecute their cases.

                        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Two of the cruise industry’s most fervent critics have also proven to be its most tenacious adversaries. The parents of missing cruise worker Rebecca Coriam have been fighting the industry for six years, since their daughter went missing in March 2011. Now, the Daily Mail newspaper cites Coriam’s disappearance and asks if it represents a more sinister trend of cruise ship murder going unpunished.

After Coriam went missing on March 22, 2011 her parents, understandably upset, spoke to cruise officials about their daughter’s disappearance. Cruise officials speculated that Coriam had perhaps been washed away from the ship by a “freak wave”. But, Frank and Ann Coriam found the explanation too outlandish to believe, and decided to launch an investigation of their own.

During their investigation, the Coriams discovered that their daughter had confided in her friends that she suspected that at least one of her fellow coworkers may have been planning to sexually assault her. This revelation led the Coriams to develop the hypothesis that perhaps their daughter had been sexually assaulted, and later tossed from the ship.

According to the Daily Mail report, approximately 200 people have gone missing from cruise ships since the year 2000. In response to reports of missing passengers, cruise companies have often devised unlikely explanations, such as the freak wave which supposedly washed Rebecca Coriam away, and the numerous cases in which cruise companies blame passengers for having jumped from cruise ships, as opposed to having fallen overboard.

Another important point made by the article is that, because many cruise ships are registered in countries such as the Bahamas and Panama, when a passenger goes missing in international waters the police force in the country under which the ship is flagged must investigate. For Rebecca Coriam, her case ultimately fell under the jurisdiction of investigators for the Bahamas, the country under which the Disney cruise ship where Rebecca worked is flagged.

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U.S. News and World Reports is reporting that seven people survived a plane crash in Alaska earlier this week, including several people who were on excursion from a cruise ship.

According to the report, the De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane, which had six passengers and the pilot aboard, crashed on Sunday as it attempted to take off from Big Goat Lake in Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument. Though the victims were said to have suffered minor injuries in the incident, all were able to swim to shore. After being rescued they were flown to Ketchikan.

The passengers included two people from Germany and four people from California. 

The plane, which was operated by Alaska Seaplane Tours, later sank.

Though authorities continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash, it is important to note that in select situations cruise companies may be liable for injuries passengers suffer while on excursion from the cruise ship.

Additionally, excursion operators are responsible for providing their clients with safe excursion experiences. In cases in which excursion companies can be proven to have acted negligently, and such negligence resulted in someone being injured, the excursion companies may also be held liable.

 

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