The Case Of Deborah Shaffer And Her Daughter

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This week we are focusing on victims of sexual assault on cruise ships. We are covering their stories as told in their words.  The reason for this is because it is important that people know what sexual assault looks like.  It is important that cruise goers do not have a preconceived notion of how and when these horrible assaults can happen, because, as seen in our first report yesterday, even 60 feet underwater is not off-limits for a sexual predator.  Today, we will look at the case of Deborah Shaffer and her daughter.

Deborah’s story is interesting because she was not the victim of the sexual assault, or the perpetrator.  When sailing on a Carnival cruise in April 2003, Deborah’s daughter, who was 15 at the time, met another 15 year old young girl aboard the ship.  She asked her half-sleep mother if she could go to the other girl’s cabin to watch a movie, which her mother said was OK.  Deborah told her daughter to be back by midnight.

Upon waking up at 4 a.m., Deborah found her daughter had not returned to their cabin.  Not knowing where her daughter was, or the name of the girl she had been with, Deborah enlisted the help of cruise staff and began knocking on cabin doors until the girl was found.

When she finally found her daughter, her daughter came out of the girl’s room with puffy eyes.  Deborah thought it was because her daughter had been sleeping.

The two days later Deborah’s younger daughter, 13 at the time, informed her that the 15 year old daughter had been raped on that night that she didn’t come back to the cabin on time!  Confronting the daughter, the girl denied that she was raped.

Deborah took the girl several times to the ship’s medical professionals to request a rape examination, but it was denied.  She even eventually asked the ship’s captain, but he also denied her request.  Deborah was at a loss.

Three years later, the girl confessed.  She had been raped by the 30 year old brother of the girl she had met.  She didn’t tell her mother because of the shame, thinking it may have been her own fault.

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