Sexual Assault

Janet Kelly

In February 2000, after the sudden loss of our 18-year old daughter, and soon followed by my husband’s heart attack and open-heart surgery (6 months later), I decided to go on a “healing” 4-day cruise with some neighbors. I had hoped to relax, regroup, and return home to my two sons and loving husband of 29 years. This certainly was a long-overdue vacation, but I could never have anticipated the following… 
On the last night of the cruise, in between a show and dinner, the ship’s bartender mixed and served me with a drug-induced drink. I began to experience mental and physical impairment. I was taken to a location on the ship marked “crew members only” to my horror, the crewmember then raped me!
The trauma from this event will be one that I will live with for the rest of my life, as it will continue to haunt me from that day forward. The location was a bathroom with two stalls and to this day a simple gesture such as going to a public restroom can cause a sudden panic attack.
I reported the crime to local authorities, which informed me that only the FBI had jurisdiction over crimes at sea….but it took the FBI “months” to investigate and interview the assailant, who had raped me. They did not prosecute him, because they claimed to not have enough evidence. They had my clothing, the rape kit completed at my local hospital, the individual’s identity and my testimony.
I was terrified that I had been exposed to HIV. It was only after filing a civil suit against the cruise line and the individual who raped me that the cruise line conceded to have him tested for HIV. They fired him and sent him back to his homeland, Jamaica.
Following his termination that same year, the rapist was reemployed by another cruise line! My attorney discovered this information, contacted the cruise line and had the rapist once again fired.
Hardly the image portrayed on the commercials. Could this rapist and others like himself be on another cruise line? Ask yourselves!….Are you safe? Are your children safe? How is it that these huge Cruise Corporations continue to operate business as usual, with absolutely no accountability for the crimes that occur on their ships?
The cruise industry continues to thrive in this lawless environment, just waiting for naïve and innocent victims, like you and myself., victims of prey! There are legal changes that must be made to increase safety on these ships.
I strongly suggest …
  • U.S. Marshals to be present on cruise ships
  • A main database of terminated individuals/employees that all cruise lines must report to.
  • Full background checks of ALL employees, INCLUDING officers
  • Changes in legislation, making these cruise lines safe for U.S. passengers.
  • Be especially careful on the last day and evening of travel. This is when most foul play on ships occurs.
  • Travel in numbers and stay together!
  • Only drink out of beverages that you have witnessed being prepared, or ask that your bottled drinks come unopened. This goes for establishments on and off ships.
The U.S. Government is desperately needed to intervene…..and make it safe for U.S. passengers to travel on cruise ships. Enough is enough!
On a personal note: If you or one of your loved ones has been affected by a crime at sea, I am sorry for your trauma. I hope by raising public awareness we can make a difference.