A US Merchant Marine Academy cadet claimed on a maritime whistleblower website that she was sexually assaulted during her Sea Year training by an engineering supervisor 40 years her senior while on board. ‘a commercial vessel in the Middle East.
The allegation was shared last week on the website of Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy, a non-profit group focused on ending sexual harassment and abuse. An unidentified woman from the 2022 class of USMMA at Kings Point has laid the charge.
The victim wrote that she was 19 at the time of the rape, which took place during the Year of the Sea, a period when cadets serve on ocean-going vessels. She alleges that she was forced to drink alcohol by older men on the US-flagged Maersk Line Limited and was subsequently assaulted by the First Engineer, a man in his sixties whom she does not have identified by name. The name of the vessel was not disclosed.
“I was in total shock,” the victim wrote of how she felt after the assault. “For at least 20 minutes, I sat there… trying to piece together a timeline and trying to figure out that I had actually been raped. I was completely terrified. I was the only girl on the ship, and we had about two weeks until we reached the next port. “
The woman said that although she passed out during the evening, she had vivid memories of part of the assault. The victim said she did not report the alleged rape for fear that she would not be believed. In a conversation the next day, the woman said her alleged rapist denied the attack and told her “no one will ever believe you”.
The victim said she knew at least five other cadets in her class who were raped during the Year of the Sea and that the approximately 50 women in her class had either been sexually harassed, assaulted or degraded during the three years. previous ones.
“Since returning from the sea, I have heard of other women in the lower classes who were also forcibly raped during the Year of the Sea, and I know that in total at least 10 young women currently enrollees at the US Merchant Marine Academy were raped during their sea year, ”wrote the woman, who has since become an attorney for victims while still in the Merchant Navy.“ And there are certainly cases. that I do not know.”
In a statement, Assistant Secretary for Transport Polly Trottenberg and Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley expressed their “unwavering support” for the victim and said they “are committed to his safety and well-being, as well as those of all aspiring USMMA “.
But officials said providing resources after an assault was not enough.
“We have to prevent them from happening in the first place,” they wrote. “We have zero tolerance for sexual assault and sexual harassment at USMMA and in the shipping industry. As we determine the appropriate actions needed to increase and ensure the safety of aspirants, we are committed to listening and working closely with the wider community of Kings Point. “
In a statement, Maersk Line Limited, which operates 20 US-flagged container ships, said it was not aware of the incident but was beginning a “top-down” review of policies on board. ships.
“The allegations in the announcement are very disturbing and MLL has opened an investigation to attempt to identify the vessel and personnel involved, as well as the relevant facts surrounding the alleged incident,” the company wrote. “MLL has a strict and explicit zero tolerance policy for assault, harassment or discrimination of any kind, and if the allegations in the post are confirmed, MLL will ensure that there is full liability.”
USMMA, which trains men and women to become midshipmen working on ocean-going vessels and in the military, has struggled for years to effectively address sexual assault and sexual harassment. The school is one of five federal service academies and was the first in the country to admit women.
In 2016, reports of sexual misconduct forced the temporary suspension of Sea Year, a program in which midshipmen are required to complete more than 300 days of work on a commercial vessel in international waters. The program resumed the following year after USMMA implemented a new “zero tolerance” policy for sexual assault and harassment as well as new training procedures.
The following year, a former academy football player filed a $ 5 million federal lawsuit against seven former team members and three former coaches, claiming he had been verbally and physically assaulted, including by a sexual assault, and that the driving had not been controlled and, in some cases, was encouraged by coaches.
The DOT paid the victim a settlement of $ 1.4 million in December.