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An All Too Familiar Story

 

“January 2015 – The four men who allegedly gang-raped a young woman in the early morning hours of Tuesday, are on the loose….

…A senior police officer told [a local newspaper] that the young woman was at a night club in [town] when she began feeling ill shortly before 1 AM yesterday. She allegedly left the club and headed home on foot. ‘While she was on her way walking, four guys pulled up in a vehicle and offered her a ride home. Since she was already feeling so ill, she decided to accept the ride knowing she would get home faster than if she had continued on foot,’ the officer said.

However, during the drive home, the men allegedly offered her a drink, which she also accepted. It is alleged the men raped the young woman in the vehicle and then left her on the roadside.”

That sexual assault happened just before New Year’s Eve and the victim was crew aboard a yacht. This was the third such incident in as many weeks.

A South Florida law firm that specializes in maritime personal injury posts this information on their website, “Claims involving sexual assault and rape of a mega yacht guest or passenger by a yacht owner, fellow crew member or yacht guest can and do happen with alarming frequency…Sexual assault and rape cause severe emotional, physiological and physical pain and suffering. Yacht guests are aboard a mega yacht to have fun. Crewmembers are aboard to make a living and see the world. Neither, however, are aboard to be abused… Isolation, the complete lack of ‘police presence’ and arrogance lead to the perpetrator’s mistaken notion that civil restitution is not a threat.”

A current rumor on the docks notes that a high profile boat, with a very well known captain, is trying to sweep under the rug an alleged rape of a stewardess by that captain. She was offered a large amount of hush money by the yacht management company, but decided to blow the whistle instead. The stewardess is pursuing criminal charges.

“Female crew have to listen to their own radar,” said Jason King, who conducts onboard interior training programs aboard superyachts. “Their mental health and life are not worth their paycheck. They should have an emergency fund so they can fly home from anywhere in the world.”

Why is this going on in the superyacht industry? The personal safety of women, either working aboard yachts or as guests, has been a problem for years. Why is this so pervasive? For the most part, the attitude of the yachting industry with regard to sexual assault has been in step with its view of captains who are alcoholics. That is, either disbelief or moving the guilty party to a job on another yacht and hoping they don’t commit the same offense again.

However, that culture is changing, albeit not soon enough for the victims. Training is a key component to breaking this cycle. All crew working aboard yachts are required to have a half-day of training in personal safety and social responsibility as part of gaining their basic STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) certificates. The subjects of the risks and the importance of reporting sexual harassment, alcoholism and drug abuse are discussed within the framework of living aboard a yacht. Unfortunately for the victims who may be saddled with shame and the possibility of losing their berths through retaliation, theory and practice diverge.

If the yachting industry is slow to change, perhaps training developed to protect the potential victim can be a solution. The International Maritime Security Network, a company that offers training to yacht crew, is developing an anti-rape training course for women. Their premise is evade, escape and survive. Evade a potential assault through situational awareness and other tactics. Escape an attacker using simple but powerful defense skills. And (how to) survive a sexual assault, if escape is unsuccessful, and help law enforcement track down the attacker.

If this concept of training is successful within the realm of superyachts, then the women who are aboard yachts, as guests or crew, and women everywhere will be the vanguard of a sea change.

 

Ask the Experts! Stumped by an On the Water crisis? Ask the Gurus at International Crew Training! Send thoughts and questions to editor@allatsea.net

 

Capt. Jeff Werner is a Senior Instructor with International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale, and is a 23 year veteran of the yachting industry.

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