Gina Clark from Brandon was furious after a worker on a recent Bahamas cruise told her he wanted to rape her. Even posted the incident on social media.
“He said, you know, when a man forcefully makes a woman have sex.”
Clark’s friend recorded the confrontation with a cruise ship worker who all but admitted it.
“I called you out of the cabin door and I said I wanted to rape you but I was playing with you,” he explains in front of a ship supervisor.
The incident has exposed a shocking reality for unsuspecting cruise passengers.
Crime at sea, including sexual assaults, is deceivingly underreported.
Entire websites like Cruiserape.com and RAINN.org are dedicated to more transparency.
Organizations, often formed by victims, include the International Cruise Victims Association.
“Crimes on cruise ships are a problem,” said the organization’s Chairman, Kendall Carver.
Carver formed the International Cruise Victims Association after his daughter Merrian disappeared on a cruise ship in 2004.
She was never found. Her clothing has been discarded. An onboard video, says Mr. Carver, had been covered up for three years.
“So, we have no idea what happened to our daughter, other than the fact that they went to great lengths to cover up her disappearance,” he said.
In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.
In 2015, it was strengthened to require cruise lines to report crimes against US citizens to the FBI within four hours.
The result has been eye-opening.
In just 5 years the number of reported sexual assaults tripled in the first quarter of 2011 when compared with 2016. Increasing from 5 to 15.
“And a lot of women don't even report sexual crimes on the boat. They're afraid to,” said Carver.
Although 80% of cruise ships are operated by U.S. companies, only a tiny fraction operate under a US registry. Lawyers say that means the rules on-board are different.
In many cases, including Clark's, the accused is sent back their home country were they might possibly be shielded from prosecution.
“A lot of the time foreigners get hired without any background screening to make sure passengers are safe and protected,” said Attorney Craig Berman.
Shorter cruises, say advocates – so-called party boats - have the highest incident rate.
They hope with more statistics now becoming available, passengers will be better informed about just how prevalent a problem this has been.