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Sexual Assaults on Cruise Ships and Airlines

Sexual assault aboard cruise ships and airlines has been reported with increasing frequency in the past few years. Since 2016, 220 sexual assaults on cruise ships were reported to the Department of Transportation, making it the most frequently committed crime at sea. A congressional report in 2013 revealed that one third of the assaults were committed against minors. The statistics for sexual assault on air travel are similarly alarming. The FBI found a 66 percent increase in cases of sexual assault reported to the organization during air travel between 2014 and 2017. The organization states that it received more reports of in-air sexual assault in 2018 than ever before.

Sexual assault while at sea or in the air presents additional concerns for victims. Individuals who have been abused often do not have immediate access to law enforcement or other forms of assistance. Staff on airplanes and ships may be ill-equipped to prevent or stop such assaults and may not be well-informed about what actions to take once the assault is reported. Victims of assault may often be ignored or subjected to a highly partial investigation intended to exonerate the cruise line or air carrier. Children are particularly vulnerable while on cruise ship vacations since cruises are advertised as safe family-friendly environments and parents are more likely to allow their children to remain unsupervised for longer periods of time. Air passengers are also highly vulnerable to sexual assault since many victims report being asleep or “half-asleep” when the assault occurs.

The U.S. has recognized the need to more aggressively address sexual abuse on cruise ships and airlines. In 2010, Congress instituted more stringent disclosure requirements for crimes aboard ships. The Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee formed a new in-flight sexual misconduct task force which will update requirements for responding to in-flight sexual assaults. Nevertheless, experts agree that more needs to be done to ensure that sex crimes are reported and proper action is taken once an assault occurs.

Airlines and cruise ships have a responsibility to keep passengers safe despite the limited resources often available to them when a crime is committed. The U.S. Department of Justice and FBI have jurisdiction over criminal charges in such situations. Victims of sexual assault have also filed civil lawsuits against airlines and cruise ship companies for inadequate training and negligence in responding to reports of sexual assault. In addition, when passengers who commit sexual assault are intoxicated, airlines can be held liable for serving alcohol to intoxicated passengers. New laws expanding the statute of limitations in New York, New Jersey, and other states enable survivors of sexual assault to bring claims against their abusers for a limited amount of time regardless of when the assault occurred.

Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that has recovered millions of dollars for victims of sexual abuse. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual misconduct on a cruise ship or airplane, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation by calling (800) 315-3806 or submit an email inquiry.

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