Sail Away-Travel on Cruise Ships
Taking an international cruise is exciting! We want your overseas experience to be the best time of your life. While sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the victim, traveling on cruise ships is not a time to throw caution to the wind. Many perpetrators are on the prowl for a victim.
Think about how a wolf attacks a flock of sheep. He watches, he waits. He identifies his prey. Then he separates the target from the herd.
We know, you are not a sheep. You identify as a strong, independent woman or man, but perpetrators can be experts at quickly gaining your trust. Here are some scenarios.
- You and your best friend Amy are in the dining room of a cruise ship in the Caribbean. You are talking about how you are finally taking that trip that the two of you have planned for years. You have befriended a group of people at the table next to you. After chatting and drinking with this group of people, your friend Amy wants to call it a night. You aren’t tired and are enjoying the company of the other people. You tell her you will be back at the room in an hour or so. After making a playful bet on how late the gift shop is open, you and a man from the group decide to walk over and find out. On the way there, the man pushes you into a cleaning closet and sexually assaults you.
- You are traveling with your family on a cruise ship. You are feeling slightly under the weather and decide to stay in the cabin while everyone else goes up to the pool. After a few minutes you hear a knock at the door and go and open it. It is a maintenance man informing you that the pipes in the bathroom need to be looked at as it may eventually cause problems if it isn’t fixed right now. Not wanting to deal with the headache of a clogged or overflowing toilet you let him in your room. He then sexually assaults you.
- You are on cruise ship with your wife and children in the Mediterranean. Your family is at a concert on the ship and you decide you would prefer to take a walk. As you walk down the ship corridor, you are hit on the back of the head. When you come to, you realize that your wallet is missing and you have been sexually assaulted.
What is common in each of these scenarios?
- The perpetrator was skillful at getting you to let your guard down. Or the situation became comfortable and familiar and you let your guard down.
- The perpetrator separated you, or waited until you were separated from the group or person you were traveling with.
- The perpetrator may have built trust with you.
How to stay safe
- Have fun, enjoy meeting new people but don’t throw caution to the wind.
- Follow your gut. Many victims have a “feeling” something isn’t right just before an assault takes place
- You don’t have to be polite. It is okay to say no.
- Stay with the group or person you are traveling with.
- Be aware of cultural norms in the country you are traveling to. Looking at someone in the eyes when you speak to them in the USA is normal. In another country it may mean you are interested in that person.
- Blend in with the crowd. Be aware of your surroundings. Are the women wearing long skirts and long sleeve shirts? If you are wearing shorts and a tank top you are going to stand out.
- When visiting ports, don’t look like a tourist. Don’t swing an expensive camera around your neck. Don’t open a map on the street corner and turn around in circles looking lost.
What if I am sexually assaulted?
It was not your fault! Don’t blame yourself. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. You may feel you can’t think straight. You are afraid. You don’t know what to do. There are so many things to consider.
- Are you in a safe place?
- Do you need medical attention?
- Do you want to report the assault to the cruise security?
- Is it safe to report to security?
- Do you want to prosecute your perpetrator?
- Did I just get an STD?
- Could I be pregnant?
- Do I want my family to know?
- Should I report to the American Embassy?
- Should I fly home at the next port?
If you don’t know the answer to those questions immediately, it’s okay. There are some things you can do until you decide what is right for you.
- If you are in a safe place, do you have someone you trust on the cruise ship with you? Can they come and be with you?
- If you are not safe, try and get a safe person to come and get you.
- Do self-collection of evidence. Put all of the clothes you were wearing, bed sheets, and so on in a paper bag.
- If there is semen present, collect what you can in a cruise ship glass or cup and put it in the paper bag.
- If you have any injuries, take pictures.
- Call or email a SASHAA advocate from the business center on the cruise ship. Advocates are available 24/7. They can help you through the ordeal, honoring your decisions. All calls and emails are confidential.
Click here for instructions on contacting a SASHAA Advocate internationally.