Loophole lets cruise ship rapes go unreported

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, June 25, 2012 10:02 EDT
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A woman prepares to board a cruise ship. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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An innocuous-looking loophole in the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (PDF) has allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) neglect the reporting requirement for sexual assaults on American citizens in international waters, according to reporter Matthew Harwood, writing for Salon.

That law requires cruise companies to protect rape victims and report serious crimes to the FBI, which investigates crimes against Americans outside the country. It also requires the Coast Guard to publish statistics of crimes on cruise ships.

However, while the legislative text was being drafted, the Bureau asked for a tiny exception: that crimes are not to be reported until the FBI has finished investigating them. In other words, the agency would have to open and close a case before the crime statistics could be shared with the general public.

That’s problematic because the FBI does not prosecute or even choose to investigate every single case. According to Harwood, the new reporting methodology resulted in zero crimes being reported (PDF) in the third quarter of 2011, even though the Bureau admitted there were crimes alleged.

That was also noticed by some leading advocates of cruise ship crimes. Harwood obtained a letter from Jaime Barnett, director of an activist group called International Cruise Victims, which called upon the FBI to account for those unreported crimes.

“We believe and firmly assert that the FBI reports, which are published by the USCG, are not in compliance with the actual reporting requirements as outlined in the law which clearly indicates that all alleged crimes recorded in each report, that are not under investigation by the FBI, be reflected,” she reportedly wrote.

The loophole would seem to raise questions as to why the FBI asked lawmakers to add the language and whether that request was motivated by an industry that has, for the most part, avoided serious regulation for many years prior to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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