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Sexual Assaults on Cruise Ships

People board cruises with visions of plentiful food and fun activities. It is a time for relaxation and a break from the stresses of everyday life. However, there are some stresses that cannot be forgotten - not even when one is basking in the Caribbean sun or enjoying the majesty of Alaska's coastline. One of those stresses is the danger of sexual assault.

The Problem of Sexual Assaults on Cruise Ships

Cruise ships do not have police officers on board who have jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes. Crewmembers are not trained and are often not willing to assist alleged victims and sometimes crewmembers are themselves, the alleged perpetrators. That means that any proper investigation of the alleged crime must be delayed until the vessel is docked. At that time, any reliable evidence concerning the crime may be gone.

In addition to the lack of proper investigation techniques, cruises have certain characteristics that may make sexual assaults more likely to happen. Drinking alcoholic beverages is a common cruise ship activity and security measures for each stateroom may be scarce. These facts can lead to serious incidents of sexual assault.

What is Being Done About It?

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2008 was introduced in the Senate. The bill, which as of December 2008 has not yet been enacted into law, describes some of the changes that could be made to help prevent sexual assaults on cruise ships and aid crew members in their investigation of alleged sexual assaults. Specifically, the Act recommends that cruise ships have rape kits on board each cruise, that crewmembers receive crime scene training, that crewmembers be allowed to access passenger staterooms, that detailed crime log books be maintained on each vessel and that certain changes be made to vessel design and construction. One of those design changes would be to require peepholes on cabin doors.

Currently, the FBI is able to investigate some crimes that occur on cruise ships and the federal government can prosecute alleged crimes. However, the lack of evidence in these cases often means that only a very small percentage of cases are ever heard in court.

A sexual assault is every bit as traumatic on a cruise ship as it is on land. Those who commit sexual assaults on cruise ships deserve the same punishments as those who commit these horrific crimes on land and, more importantly, the victims deserve the same protections.

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