An international shipping company has suspended five crew members after a cadet from the US Merchant Marine Academy revealed she was raped while serving a semester at sea.
Maersk’s actions followed an anonymous blog post written by the now senior student who said crew members made her drink alcohol “blow after blow” before she was released. ‘she only passed out and an engineer in her sixties took her virginity on one of the ships in 2019.
“There was blood on my sheets and I knew immediately that I had been raped. I was a virgin and had run away, and as soon as I woke up I could feel I was in great pain and knew exactly what had happened, “she wrote.
The woman was 19 at the time and was completing what is called a “year of the sea,” a compulsory program in which students work on commercial vessels to gain experience.
The names of the suspended crew members or the alleged rapist were not disclosed.
The woman wrote in the post, which was posted on Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy’s website last month, that sexual harassment against female cadets serving a year at sea is rampant.
“There are over 50 strong and amazing young women in my class at the United States Merchant Academy where I am currently in a senior / 1st class year,” her post began.
“I haven’t spoken to any of those women who told me that she had not been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or degraded at some point in the past 3 years at the Academy or during Sea Year.
“Most people, and even the leaders of our school, don’t seem to understand how serious this problem is, especially at sea.”
Kings Point Academy, New York, trains students to become commissioned officers in the armed forces or the merchant navy.
International shipping company Maersk has suspended five crew members pending the results of an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse
The woman revealed in painful detail the horror she experienced. After the night of forced drinking, she wrote that the next morning she woke up naked in her bed and realized that she had been raped.
The woman said she didn’t remember all of the alleged alcohol rape, but did remember that a senior engineer in his 60s was in her room.
She remembered the man who she said sexually harassed her for weeks before the incident, stripping naked, standing over her and forcing her to commit a sexual act.
The woman wrote in the blog post that she confided in her “Sea Partner” – another cadet on the ship – about what had happened and he asked her if she wanted to report it.
She wrote that she told him that she feared no one would believe her and that she did not trust the captain and that she was concerned that she would negatively impact the year of the sea for the male caddy by involving him in an investigation.
The woman wrote that several hours later her alleged rapist called her, asking her to come to her room and telling her they needed to talk.
The woman said she told her maritime partner where she was going and asked her to pick her up in 10 minutes if she hadn’t returned.
Once in the engineer’s room, the woman said he denied any sexual assault and explained his version of events in that she took to be a threat to his speaking out.
The woman wrote that the man put his hand on her thigh and offered her a proposal, telling her after rejecting him and making her leave the room, that no one would believe her if she said anything.
“Back in my room, I decided the only thing I could do was resist,” she wrote.
“No one was going to believe me, and to endure was the only option I felt like I had. I was trapped.
The woman did not report the alleged rape and returned to campus after her Sea Year ended – having had to work under her alleged rapist for an additional 50 days.
Back at school, the woman became the victims’ lawyer and learned that at least nine other academy students had been raped during their year of the sea, she wrote in the blog.
That’s what prompted her to write the post, which quickly gained media attention and elicited reactions from politicians and Maersk, as well as many comments on the original post – including by users who say they are students and crew members who have experienced harassment and similar abuse.
CNN reported that the woman’s attorney, Ryan Melogy, said: “She was sickened by the number of young women being raped at sea.
“Nothing has been done to fix the problem. She wants to see real change and real responsibility for what has happened to her and far too many others.
Maersk released a statement on Friday, saying its U.S. affiliate is working closely with the academy, unions and the U.S. government, and that five crew members would remain suspended until the investigation is completed.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by what we have read. We take this situation seriously and are troubled by the allegations made in this anonymous post which only recently came to our attention, “Bill Woodhour, CEO of Maersk Line, Limited, the company’s US subsidiary, told CNN. .
The woman wrote in the post, uploaded to the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy website, that she is currently a senior at the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York (pictured)
“We are doing everything possible to ensure that all of our work environments, including ships, are a safe and welcoming place to work and we have launched a top-down investigation.”
The US Maritime Administration, which oversees the academy, said it had “zero tolerance for sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
He said the school principal informed the Coast Guard’s investigative service about the blog post the day after it was posted.
Maersk Line CEO William Woodhour has promised “a top-down investigation” into the alleged sexual assault against a cadet.
A spokesperson for the administration told CNN that government officials will review the requirements for commercial vessels to keep students safe.
Last week, Congressman Tom Suozzi and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand demanded an immediate investigation into the blog post.
Despite the fury around the post, this is not the first time that the Year of the Sea program has come under scrutiny.
It was suspended in 2016 following reports of sexual assault and harassment, but was reinstated the following year after new rules were introduced, including a zero tolerance policy.
Last year, the government said that the 2018-19 academic year saw a decrease in reports of sexual assault by academy students.
The period saw nine allegations of sexual assault, two of sexual harassment and one of retaliation.
However, the government acknowledged that there were still barriers preventing women from reporting harassment and assault, including “fear of reprisal from their peers, social stigma and ostracism”.