Protecting Yourself After Sexual Assault on a Cruise Ship
If you are sexually assaulted, raped, or otherwise attacked in any way while on a cruise ship, pay close attention. You have specific rights, and what you do in the hours and days following your attack can make all the difference in convicting your attacker and possibly obtaining compensation for your injuries. Our experienced maritime attorneys want you to know your rights and be prepared to protect them if this happens to you.
Federal Laws Protect Sexual Assault Victims Aboard Ships
In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010, which affords specific rights and protections to assault victims on board U.S. ships. This law also provides a long list of additional safety features and requirements for ships. Here are just some of the important rights you have:
- Antiviral medications for sexual assault victims
- Rape kits
- Adequately trained medical staff, including a physician or registered nurse with at least 3 years of post-graduate clinical experience, including emergency medicine and training in conducting a forensic sexual assault examination (among other specific requirements)
- Victim must be given contact information for law enforcement, FBI, US Coast Guard, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, and the phone number to a sexual assault hotline
- Private telephone line to make phone calls and internet access to confidentially communicate with an attorney and law enforcement personnel
Your Rights After a Sexual Assault
Federal law guarantees victims certain rights. Surviving an attack can leave a victim paralyzed with fear and traumatized. If a loved one is attacked, make sure to advocate for the following, which are legally protected rights:
- The right to have emergency medical care by qualified medical personnel
- The right to have a rape kit (“Forensic sexual assault examination”)
- The right to confidential access to internet and a telephone in order to speak with law enforcement and your own attorney
Steps to Take After an Attack
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has jurisdiction to investigate sexual assaults on all U.S. ships that depart from U.S. ports. Immediately following a sexual assault on a cruise ship, you should follow these steps:
Step 1 Request emergency medical care.
First and foremost, get care. You’ve been attacked, and you likely have injuries that need to be treated. If there was any sexual contact at all, demand that you be given antiviral medications to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Demand that contraceptives and other protective medical actions be taken. The cruise ship is required to keep these on board.
Step 2 Request that a forensic exam be performed in order to preserve evidence
A forensic exam (sometimes called a “rape kit”) will help to preserve evidence of your assault. Demand that this be done as quickly as possible.
Step 3 Request access to a private phone line and internet access
By law, they have to give you privacy to speak with law enforcement and your attorney.
Step 4 Report your assault
Report to the FBI, Department of Transportation (DOT), and U.S. Coast Guard. DOT creates incident reports that can be valuable evidence later. Since jurisdictional issues can be challenging, it’s best to report the event to all 3 major investigating agencies – FBI, DOT, and USCG. Request copies of the investigation and your report be sent to you upon completion.
Step 5 Contact a Maritime Injury Lawyer
Sometimes cruise ships know their employees have a criminal history, or they simply fail to check. In other situations, the ship may not have adequate security protections in place. Whatever the case, you may be due compensation for your assault. A maritime lawyer can help make sure your rights are protected from the start.
How a Maritime Lawyer Can Help
An experienced maritime lawyer can help you communicate authorities, obtain crucial evidence, such as reports, exams, medical records, and investigation files, and fight for the compensation you deserve after your sexual assault or other cruise ship injury. If you’re injured or assaulted on a cruise ship, you have rights. The law firm of Michael F. Guilford, P.A. is available to take your call and answer your most challenging maritime injury questions. But don’t wait too long. Your right to compensation is time limited, and the longer you wait, the harder it can be to get justice.