The House passed a Coast Guard Reauthorization Act Friday that requires annual reporting of the number of sexual assaults on and by members of the Coast Guard and establishes requirements for owners of cruise ships. The commandant of the Coast Guard will submit the report, which will also detail all disciplinary actions taken in each case, any subsequent policies and procedures implemented in response to the incidents, as well as a plan for the following year to reduce incidents of sexual assault. The bill also includes several new regulations addressing cruise vessel safety.
According to the bill, sexual and physical assaults have been the most prevalent crimes on cruise ships in the past five years. The bill would mandate that cruise vessel owners “maintain on the vessel adequate, in-date supplies of anti-retroviral medications and other medications designed to prevent sexually transmitted diseases after a sexual assault;equipment and materials for performing a medical examination in sexual assault cases to evaluate the patient for trauma, provide medical care, and preserve relevant medical evidence;” and provide free and immediate access to law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the nearest US embassy, the Coast Guard, and sexual assault hotlines. Additionally, the owner of the vessel is also required to provide the victim with documentation regarding the results of the examination, as well as access to a private telephone line and internet connection.
Evelyn Fortier, vice president of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, told Security Management “Because most cruise ships are foreign-flagged vessels, because the perpetrator may be a foreign national, and because you may be in international waters when the assault occurs, you face a host of legal uncertainties. For example, you cannot automatically assume that certain laws will cover the incident, due to messy jurisdictional issues that arise in some of these cases.”