The ship’s captain allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted two sea cadets

The United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY.
Photo: Getty Images

After a horrible year for survivors of sexual violence at the US Merchant Marine Academy, another heartbreaking incident was revealed in a previously unreported complaint filed by the US Coast Guard.

The complaint, obtained by CNN through a request for the records, details how the captain of a freighter sailing across the Atlantic, Captain John Merrone, persuaded two young cadets from the US Merchant Marine Academy to go to his bedroom. After handing them each a drink, the cadets recalled that they had felt a little uncomfortable. Now they say their boss spiked their drinks with date rape drugs and, once unconscious, they raped a cadet and ‘attempted to sexually assault the other’.

Filed in August, the Coast Guard complaint says Merrone’s behavior justifies the revocation of his Merchant Seaman title, to protect future cadets from abuse by their superior on the job.

The Coast Guard is usually the agency responsible for investigating reports of misconduct on ships, ranging from substance abuse to physical or sexual abuse. But records obtained by CNN show that any attempt to revoke a sailor’s credentials for sexual misconduct rarely succeeds and, when it does, takes an extremely long time to process, prolonging an already horrific experience for survivors.

Unsurprisingly, Merrone was also charged with rape in 2011, when a woman showed up at the hospital “bruised and beaten”. According to CNN, court records, which include testimony from the nurse who examined her, show he allegedly raped her in her Florida Keys apartment. Merrone was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for forcible confinement and assault, but his sentencing was later reversed. The Coast Guard took no action against Merrone at the time because, as they told CNN, they were unaware of the incident until it was called off.

Merrone has denied the allegations against him in a separate Coast Guard filing, meaning that, at this time, the captain still holds his Merchant Seaman title and has been sailing freely since the incident was first reported. .

Unfortunately, this type of behavior is pervasive at the US Merchant Marine Academy, as well as throughout the shipping industry. Last year a student wrote an anonymous message blog post saying she was raped by her supervisor during her training program at sea and later for follow-up the Academy for sexual misconduct. In February, students at the Merchant Marine Academy spoke out against the Academy, saying the institution “silences” those who say they have been harassed or sexually assaulted. And in June, another student came forward saying she had been harassed and groped by older men on her ship and ended up sleeping in a locked bathroom with a knife in her hand. fear of being sexually assaulted. As the Academy comes under scrutiny for its sloppy handling of sexual misconduct cases, the culture of silence continues to thrive as men in uniform continue to exploit their power over their young and often feminine.