Royal Caribbean is allegedly ignoring a massive sexual assault problem onboard their cruises. And according to a federal appeals court in Miami, the company’s inaction contributed to 15-year-old passenger’s brutal sexual assault and gang rape in 2015.
According to the Miami New Times, in December 2015, a then-15-year-old girl was traveling with her family onboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas when she ended up alone at a cruise bar getting fed alcohol by a group of men. The men then took her to a cabin and “brutally assaulted and gang-raped her,” she said; she and her family sued Royal Caribbean, arguing that a group of crew members watched these men buy an underage girl drinks and failed to step in.
Royal Caribbean counter-argued that the crew members “could not have foreseen” that the men would subsequently attack and rape the girl—even though one might think a group of men buying a teen drinks might, you know, catch someone’s attention—and a Miami federal court sided with them in August 2017, dismissing the case.
The family appealed, though, and on Wednesday the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor. Royal Caribbean knew the girl was in danger, the court ruled, because it was impossible for them not to know that sexual assaults run rampant on cruises.
Per Cruise Law News, which first reported the story:
The appellate court stated that “the scope of Royal Caribbean’s duty to protect it’s passengers is informed, if not defined, by its knowledge of the dangers they face onboard. And it allegedly knew a lot.” (emphasis added).
Judge Ed Carnes stated in a concurring opinion that “publicly available data (which can be imputed to the cruise line) . . . reinforces the allegations in the complaint that Royal Caribbean know or should have known about the danger of sexual assault aboard its cruise ships.”
Moreover, Royal Caribbean likely still knows that cruise passengers are in danger of sexual assault, and it doesn’t seem like they’re doing anything about it:
...The appellate court concluded its decision by stating that “and it would be absurd to suggest that a multi-billion dollar business like Royal Caribbean was not aware of congressional reports about the problem of sexual assaults aboard it cruise ships.”
This is not really a secret. In April, Miami New Times revealed that sexual assault is the most reported crime on cruises. That same data was reported in 2017, with NBC News noting that most victims of sexual assault onboard cruises were minors. Also in 2017, at the beginning of the Me Too era, cruise lines saw an uptick in reported sexual assaults, not necessarily because there were more, but because women felt safer coming forward.
A spokesperson told Miami New Times that Royal Caribbean is not “able to comment on pending litigation, but we do take this allegation very seriously. The safety and security of our guests is our top priority.” Jezebel reached out to the cruise line for comment and will update if and when we hear back.