‘I was trapped’: Shipping giant investigates 19-year-old’s alleged rape during federal training program



anonymous author of post Said she is a current senior at the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York, which trains students to become commissioned officers in the Armed Forces and licenses Merchant Marine officers who are involved in cargo and cargo operations around the world. Work on ships transporting passengers.

She wrote last month that she was the only woman on a Maersk ship during her seafaring year, a mandatory program when students work on commercial ships and experience what the school describes as “the first real opportunity for self-sufficiency”. Is.

Of what happened, he said that after leaving a port in the Middle East, engineers on board the ship forced him and his fellow cadet, who is a male, to shoot down hard liquor one night, and he Woke up the next morning in her bed naked and terrified.

“There was blood on my sheets, and I knew right away that I had been raped,” she wrote. “I was a virgin and defending myself, and as soon as I woke up, I felt like I was in a lot of pain and I knew exactly what had happened.”

She wrote that her supervisor on the ship, a senior engineer in her 60s and another commander in her department, had been sexually assaulting her for weeks leading up to this night. She said that while she couldn’t remember the actual rape because of the alcohol, she remembered the same man in her room, who was dressed, standing over her and forcing himself on her.

According to her post, hours after she woke up he called her and realized what had happened and asked her to come to his room, saying they needed to talk. The woman said that she went to his room and when he accused her of coercing herself, she refused, saying that he had helped her back to her room and “do whatever you believe Were, you won’t tell the captain?” She said as she put her hand on his thigh, and when she got up to leave she said that no one would ever believe her.

“Back in my room I decided the only thing I could do was to make it harder,” she wrote in her post on the website of Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy, a nonprofit run by a USMMA graduate, who said she was a victim and a witness to sexual assault and abuse on a Maersk ship. “No one was going to believe me, and hardening it was the only option I felt like I had. I was stuck.”

For the next 50 days, she said she would have to continue working for the man who raped her – seeing her every day.

what she says inspired her to speak

While she told other USMMA cadets about the alleged rape, she had not officially reported it at the time. But upon returning to campus and working as the victim’s lawyer, she learns of at least nine other female students, currently enrolled in the academy, who said they were raped during their marine years. Was. This prompted her to speak up, she said, and her story quickly made rounds in industry and the federal government.

“She was sick of the number of young women raped at sea,” said her lawyer, Ryan Melozzi, the founder of the nonprofit that published her story. “Nothing was being done about the problem. She wants to see real change and real accountability for what happened to her and many others.”

also featured on his post media attention And dozens of comments from both men and women in the maritime industry, including alumni, students, academy parents, and others who support and share similar experiences.

Denmark-based Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, said in a statement issued Friday, as previously reported in Danish and industry media, that its US subsidiary is working closely with the Academy, Workers. The unions that represent the officers and crew, and the US government and five crew members will remain suspended until the investigation is complete.

Bill Woodhorse, CEO of Maersk Line, Ltd., said, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by what we have read. We take this situation seriously and are disturbed by the allegations made in this anonymous posting, which was published recently. has been brought to our notice.” American subsidiary of the company. “We make every effort to ensure that all of our workplace environments, including ships, are a safe and welcoming workplace and have launched a top-down investigation.”

The US Maritime Administration, which oversees the academy, said in a statement that it was aware of the allegation and that the USMMA superintendent sent the blog post to the Coast Guard Investigative Service a day after it was published. “We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual harassment at USMMA and the maritime industry,” the statement said. “As we determine the appropriate steps necessary to enhance and ensure the safety of USMMA students, we pledge to listen to and work closely with the entire USMMA community, including students, parents and alumni.” A spokeswoman for the agency also noted that the woman said in her post that she chose not to report the alleged attack and that the academy and government officials would review existing requirements imposed on commercial vessels to ensure safety. student.

Sea has been suspended years ago

USMMA’s partnership with shipping companies first came under scrutiny in 2016, when Sea Year was suspended amid reports of sexual harassment and harassment. It was reinstated the following year following new rules for the program and a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and harassment by the school and the federal government.

The federal government said last year that there had been a decrease in reports of sexual assault of Academy students in the 2018-2019 academic year, but that there were nine allegations of sexual assault, as well as two claims of sexual assault and one report of retaliation. .

The Department of Transportation also noted that the school’s culture remains “heavily influenced by a higher proportion of males than females” – some female students feel like they have to act like “one of the boys” – and Said there are still a number of reasons why victims do not feel comfortable coming forward, including “fear of retaliation from peers, social stigma and exclusion”.

The woman behind the blog post wrote that out of the more than 50 women in her senior class at the Academy, she “has not spoken to one of the women who have told me that she was not sexually harassed, sexually harassed or humiliated.” At some point during the last 3 years in the academy or during the sea year. Most people, and even our school leaders, do not understand how serious this problem is, especially at sea. “

Prior to Maersk’s announcement of his investigation, the US Deputy Secretary of Transportation and Acting Maritime Administrator co-authored a letter posted on the school’s website, expressing the agency’s “unwavering support” for the woman who came forward. does.

Congressman Tom Suozzi and US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also issued a statement last week calling for an immediate investigation, saying they will “continue to work closely with the Merchant Marine Academy to have systems in place to ensure timely and thorough reporting.” To be.”

Do you have any experiences or information to share about the US Merchant Marine Academy or the marine industry? Email us at watchdog@cnn.com.

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