International shipping giant Maersk has suspended a number of crew members after allegations were posted that a student was raped during a federal training program. The incident occurred in 2019. The woman was 19 years old at the time and competing what is known as a ‘Sea Year’ – a mandatory program in which students work on commercial vessels to gain experience.
The student revealed in painful detail the horror she experienced in an anonymous blog post. She stated that she is a current senior at the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, NY, which trains students to become commissioned officers in the armed forces and licensed Merchant Marine officers who work on ships transporting cargo and passengers worldwide.
In her post, the student states that she was the only female on a Maersk ship during her Sea Year. She recalls she was raped as a virgin by a senior engineer in his 60s. He had forced her to drink ‘shot after shot.’ She said while she couldn’t remember the actual rape due to the alcohol, she remembered the man in her room, getting undressed, standing over her and forcing himself on her.
“There was blood on my sheets, and I knew immediately that I had been raped,” she wrote. “I was a virgin and had been saving myself, and as soon as I woke up I could feel that I was very sore and knew exactly what had happened.”
According to her post, the man had been sexually harassing her for weeks leading up to that evening. “Back in my room I decided that the only thing I could do was to tough it out. No one was going to believe me, and toughing it out was the only option I felt like I had. I was trapped,” she stated.
“There are more than 50 young, strong, amazing women in my class at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy where I am currently in my Senior/1st Class year. I have not spoken to a single one of those women who has told me that she has not been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or degraded at some point during the last 3 years at the Academy or during Sea Year,” the woman addressed her post. “Most people, and even the leaders of our school, do not seem to understand how serious this problem is, especially at sea.”
Her post has sparked media attention and dozens of comments expressing support and sharing similar experiences from both men and women, inclauding alumni, students, and academy parents in the maritime industry.
Sadly, all types of situations can occur aboard ships. Aside from unsafe working conditions, maritime injuries, hypothermia, and boating accidents, individuals can even be victims of sexual assault. If you have experienced sexual assault or any form of sexual harassment on board a vessel, our maritime injury attorneys at BoatLaw, LLP can help you fight for the justice you deserve. Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to obtain a free, confidential consultation.
Sea Sisters is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recruitment and retention of women in the maritime industry. ACW&N is working with Sea Sisters offering free attorney consultations to potential victims of sexual assault in the maritime industry.