July 28 2014
Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word.
You can listen to today’s episode here: https://soundcloud.com/carol-ann-olson/07-28-14-the-vword-1
Today’s question came from a friend, what are the risks of assault while on vacation and what can you do if you are assaulted while on vacation or while on a cruise ship?
The FBI states that sexual assault is the dominant threat to women and minors while at sea, with the majority of assaults happening on cruise ships.
(See December 2005statement of Chris Swecker, Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI, before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations and Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources.)
In fact, sexual assault is the leading crime reported to the FBI – comprising 55% of crimes at sea that are reported.
(See March 2007 statement of Salvador Hernandez, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.)
The exact rate of sexual assault aboard cruise ships is difficult to determine. It is hard to precisely pinpoint the extent of the problem because there is no reliable way to asses whether the cruise lines are accurately reporting all on-board sexual assaults, and what is reported is not automatically made public. This, coupled with the fact that sexual assault is one of the least reported violent crimes. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 60% of onshore sexual assault victims decline to report the crime against them. It is likely that many cruise passengers who experience sexual assault on the cruise also will not report the crime, and therefore such crimes will not become part of industry cruise safety statistics.
So what can a survivor do if assaulted? Is reporting important? Yes. And there are things you can do. As with crime onshore…
Physical evidence is very important in sexual assault cases, and can deteriorate as time passes. As such, victims should not change clothes, avoid bathing if possible, and have a physical exam at the first opportunity. You should take these steps even if you are unsure about whether to report the crime to police. If you decide to pursue a prosecution at a later time, these steps preserve evidence that will assist the prosecutor.
If you are a US citizen and out of the US when assaulted, contact the US Embassy. A consular officer or after-hours duty officer from the U.S. Embassy may be able to accompany victims of sexual assault for the medical exam. You should get medical attention to determine if you have been injured in any way and to discuss treatment and prevention options for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The U.S. Embassy can provide you with a list of local doctors.
RAINN provides a list of suggestions
If You Are a Victim of Rape/Sexual Assault While Aboard a Cruise
Do not shower, and do not wash your clothes or bedding (as this may damage or destroy valuable evidence) until you have had a forensic examination by qualified medical personnel.
Immediately seek treatment in the emergency room of the nearest hospital or, if you are at sea, from the ship’s medical facilities for any physical injuries. Get a forensic examination to ensure that any evidence is collected; and take photos of any physical injuries or bruises and of the scene of the incident.
If you are onboard the ship when the crime occurs, immediately telephone the FBIand U.S. Coast Guard about the crime, and get advice on how to proceed. You can reach FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. at 202-324-3000, while the emergency numbers for the U.S. Coast Guard are: (1) Atlantic Area Command Center (for Great Lakes, Gulf and East Coasts) – (757) 398-6390; (2) Pacific Area Command center (for the Hawaiian, Alaskan and Pacific Coasts) – (510) 437-3700.
FBI jurisdiction over sexual assault at sea arises under federal criminal law. The Bureau has jurisdiction in these four circumstances: (1) if the cruise vessel is owned in whole or in part by a United States company, (2) if the victim or the perpetrator is a United States national or if the vessel departs or arrives in a United States port anytime during its voyage, (3) if the offense was committed by or against a United States national outside the jurisdiction of any nation (i.e., in international waters), and (4) if the offense occurred in the United States territorial sea within 12 miles of the United States coast.
If the crime occurred on-board the ship, also report the incident to a cruise ship security officer as soon as possible. Insist that the scene of the crime be secured until law enforcement officials arrive.
Get the names and contact information of any individuals (both crew members and passengers) who witnessed or were involved in the incident.
If the crime occurs when you are on foreign soil, seek advice from your nearest embassy or consulate concerning local resources and report the crime to the local police. (Remember that not every country’s legal definition of “rape” and “sexual assault” is the same.) Consular duty personnel are available 24/7 in over 260 Foreign Service posts abroad; and they can provide U.S. citizens who are victimized while traveling with a variety of forms of emergency assistance.
Here are some of the ways a U.S. consular officer can assist:
Contacting your family, friends, or employers;
Locating medical services;
Meeting other emergency needs that arise as a result of the crime;
Providing information about the local criminal justice process and about the case itself;
Obtaining information about local resources to assist victims, including foreign crime victim compensation programs;
Obtaining information about U.S. crime victim assistance and compensation programs on your behalf, and
Obtaining a list of local attorneys who speak English.
Consular officials cannot:
Provide legal advice or represent you in court;
Serve as official interpreters or translators; or
Pay your legal and medical bills or other fees.
For help or information? Here are some options…
To reach the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in the U.S., call 888-407-4747 (during business hours) or 202-647-5225 (after hours).
If you have been assaulted onshore in the US, call 911. Local rape crisis centers have advocates they can send to help support you and provide information.
For information on how to report an assault in the Richmond, Virginia, USA are, you can call the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100, that is 804-646-5100 or go by a local police station office. The main Richmond office is located at 200 West Grace Street.
For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
Want to share a story or ask a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at http://www.thevword.org
The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.
Contact information of U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies for U.S. citizens traveling abroad.
More information about consular assistance for victims of crime abroad.
Seek support from the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE), the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline (www.rainn.org), or your nearest rape crisis center. If the FBI is involved in investigating your case, you also may want to contact the FBI Office for Victim Assistance about the status of the criminal investigation: 866-828-5320.
Call your physician when you return home and make sure you receive the proper medical care and longer term counseling if necessary.
Should you decide to pursue a civil claim, seek the advice of a legal professional. Your state bar association can refer you to a lawyer with expertise in maritime and admiralty law.