A few days after Christmas in 2015, a woman working on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas was pinned down by another crew member and violently raped, a lawsuit says. The attack, which lasted around 45 minutes, was so brutal the woman was left with bite marks and bruises.
When the woman reported the attack to her supervisor, the staff captain, the ship's security officer, and the onboard doctor, they reacted despicably. The supervisor discouraged her from pressing charges, the doctor said she should "get over" the rape quickly because she was a sexual assault survivor, and after returning to her job soon after the attack, she was told she needed to smile more.
“The sexual assault itself left her pretty bruised up... but her treatment afterward is really inexcusable,” says John Hickey, a Brickell-based attorney representing the woman. The lawsuit, filed late last month in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, does not name the woman due to the nature of the allegations.
According to Hickey, the woman has worked for the cruise line since 2003 and was sexually assaulted by another crew member in 2004, which she also reported.
Royal Caribbean did not respond to requests for comment.
The day after the 2015 incident, the ship docked in the Bahamas, and the woman went with her supervisor to report the sexual assault to Bahamian police. At the station, at "a time when [she] was traumatized and at her weakest," the woman followed her supervisor's urging not to press charges. The cruise line never reported the rape to the FBI or any U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to the lawsuit.
As part of the woman's treatment plan, Royal Caribbean required her to undergo daily medical examinations with the ship's onboard doctor, even after she reported his inappropriate comments about "getting over" the assault to human resources. The woman says the doctor's "comments, interrogations, and daily examinations left [her] feeling humiliated and belittled."
According to the lawsuit: "RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line) subjected Jane Doe to repeated and unnecessary interrogations in the presence of men for the dual purposes of trying to intimidate Jane Doe to dissuade her from taking legal action and to attempt to create inconsistencies in the facts which could be used against her by the company’s lawyers in the event that she chose to bring a legal action against RCCL."
Despite the traumatic nature of the incident, the cruise line put the woman back on the job almost immediately, forcing her to interact with hundreds of passengers in the ship's casino. The lawsuit says the woman "was not in a mental state to work" and would frequently burst into tears during her shifts. But in the weeks after the attack, she was admonished for "not smiling as much as she did before" and for not performing her duties as well as she had prior to the assault. She was fired from the cruise line shortly thereafter.
The woman is suing Royal Caribbean for failing to create a safe workplace, intentional emotional distress through the daily interrogations by its doctor, and "retaliatory discharge," among other things. The cruise line has not yet responded to the allegations in court.
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