Sexual Assault

Deborah Shaffer

In April 2003, on the first night aboard Carnival’s Legend, my 15-year-old daughter met a girl her own age, who was also on the cruise with her parents and two brothers. Around 10:00 pm, my daughter brought the girl to my cabin to introduce her and to tell me that they were going back to the girl’s cabin to watch a video. At the time, I was already half-asleep, but I told my daughter to be back to our cabin by midnight.
After the girls left, I fell back to sleep, waking up at 4:00am, only to find that my daughter had not returned. At that point, I had no idea where she was, nor did I know where the other girl’s cabin was located. In addition, I could not remember the girl’s name.
Hysterically, I ran to Security and we started knocking on cabin doors. We finally found the correct cabin and my daughter walked out with swollen and puffy eyes. Although I had no idea what had actually happened, I assumed that she might have been sleeping; however, at the time, I was very upset and angry with her.
Two days later, my younger daughter (13 years old) came to me and told me what she knew… My 15-year old daughter had been raped! At the point, I had had no idea that she had been raped, and when I confronted her with this new information, she completely denied it.
Subsequently, as a result of her overreaction, I brought my daughter to the ship’s doctor and requested a medical examination to help me get to the truth of the matter. The doctor refused to examine her. Daily, over the next three days, I kept going back and asking that she be examined, but they continuously refused. I even went to the Captain of the ship and was told that we were on international waters and that they thought I was traumatizing my daughter by insisting on an investigation.
Three years later, and with a much higher level of maturity, my daughter has been able to tell me the truth and the whole story!
According to my daughter, she had fallen asleep on the bed in that cabin, while watching a video. The next thing she knew, there was a man on top of her, whom she first thought was the girl’s father. She loudly said that she needed to leave, that she needed to get up. He put his hands over her mouth to muffle her shouts, and then, forced himself on her. She recalls that he reeked of alcohol.
The rapist turned out to be the girl’s 30-year old brother.
Following the rape, my 15-year old daughter was very confused, afraid, and actually believed that it was her fault, thinking that she had somehow caused this to happen. She claims that she never told me, because she did not want me “to tell the whole world” plus she felt responsible.
Since that time, my daughter has emotionally distanced herself from me, rarely talking to me. This experience has been tremendously damaging to her, as well as to our relationship.