Approximately two weeks from now, our oldest daughter Morgan will be setting out for a 5-day cruise with a few of her sorority sisters for spring break. Paradise awaits our 20 year old, but so does the lurking possibility of sexual assault. According to the FBI, sexual assault is the leading crime reported on the high seas. Ladies, here is what you need to know beforehandto make sure you have the safest, most worthwhile trip abroad this spring:
When you leave the United States, you leave behind a few protections.
We have certain protections as citizens by the United States that may not apply in every country. There are no police forces aboard these ships, only a security staff with little to no reinforcement backgrounds. Should an assault take place, there is no enforcement to secure the “crime scene” and speak to witnesses. Keep in mind that if the victim is a U.S. citizen, the FBI will investigate, but other countries may have jurisdiction as well.
Medical attention may not be as thorough.
In the event of an assault, rape, or otherwise, it’s important to remember that the medical attention you receive may not be as thorough as a typical hospital or doctor’s office. Ask your travel agent ahead of time if there is a licensed medical physician on board, does the physician speak English, and how and where are the medical facilities. Medical examinations can be costly; meaning your insurance may not be accepted outside of U.S. territory. Luckily for you, “temporary” insurance does exist through The Bureau of Consular Affairs; they have a list of companies available to offer short-term policies.
Now that you have boarded the ship, dangerous situations are still there for you to take caution by. In the event of a rape, assault, etc., it is crucial that you remember these tips:
Do not shower, wash your clothes, or your bedding.
This could destroy valuable evidence that authorities would need to execute a proper investigation.
Immediately seek medical treatment.
Search for the medical facilities aboard the ship, and have a forensic exam done to ensure that any and all evidence is collected. Take photographs of any physical injuries or bruises.
If the assault took place on the ship, call the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Let the authorities know about the crime, and seek advice on how to proceed about the accident from there. The number for the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. is (202) 324-3000. FBI jurisdiction over sexual assault at sea arises under federal criminal law. Be sure to alert the cruise ship’s authorities as well.
Get names and contact information of anybody involved or who may have been a witness to the incident.
If the crime occurs on foreign soil…
Call your nearest embassy or consulate regarding local resources and alert the local police of the crime. Consular personnel should be available 24/7 to assist you. There are a few ways a consular officer can assist you:
- Contact your family, friends, employers, etc.
- Locate medical services
- Provide you with information about the local criminal justice process
- Obtain a list of local attorneys who are fluent in English.
Call your doctor as soon as you get home.
Make sure you have received proper medical care and long-term counseling, if necessary.
Spring break is a time to relax and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones. Keep yourself safe by arming yourself with knowledge and understanding that sexual assault is real and could literally happen anywhere. Be safe and soak up those rays!