CNN Report Exposes Decades of Sexual Assaults on US Coast Guard Ships

CNN Report Exposes Decades of Sexual Assaults on US Coast Guard Ships

CNN’s “Maritime Me Too” report exposes the US Coast Guard’s failure to prevent and punish mariners accused of sexual assault for years.

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Among the women who have come forward with claims of rape at sea is Hope Hicks, who was a 19-year-old student in the US Merchant Marine Academy when she was allegedly raped by First Engineer Edgar Sison.

Hicks claimed that her ordeal went far beyond just taunting on the ship, as Sison, her boss, allegedly raped her one night after a stop in Aqaba, Jordan. Despite being fired by Maersk, Sison was hired by another shopping company soon afterward.

Shockingly, more than 25 mariners, who had previously been convicted of sex crimes, including rape and child molestation, still worked on ships after either being deemed “suitable” by their employers, or having their previous crimes go unnoticed altogether.

Difficulties in Prosecuting At-Sea Sex Crimes

At-sea sex crimes can be difficult to prosecute for several reasons. Victims may be less likely to come forward as they often still have to work in close proximity with their attackers, and the closest doctors and investigators can be thousands of miles away when they are docked in the middle of the ocean.

Alleged rapists can still hold their credentials and are able to move from ship to ship before any concrete movements in cases are made.

No Serious Reprimands for Sexual Misconduct in the Last 10 Years

The Coast Guard’s judicial process demands less proof than normal criminal court, but no mariners have been seriously reprimanded or had their credentials revoked for on-board sexual misconduct in the last 10 years.

The agency, which is a branch of the US military overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, is tasked with overseeing commercial ships and making sure the 200,000 mariners don’t pose a safety risk.

Coast Guard Creates a Phone Line and Email Address for Sex Crime Victims at Sea

Director of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Jeremy Gauthier, said the agency has now created a 24/7 phone line and email address for sex crime victims at sea.

The Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy, Admiral Wayne Arguin, admitted that “there may be instances where something falls through the cracks” in terms of vetting.

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