US Merchant Marine Academy faces tough questions as multiple rape allegations emerge

US authorities are investigating allegations of the rape of a then 19-year-old member of the class of 2022 at the US Merchant Marine Academy while serving her year at sea onboard a Maersk vessel.

The alleged victim wrote extensively about the incident in a post carried by Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy, a non-profit legal advocacy organisation fighting for the rights of mariners, in which she said a first engineer in his 60s raped her after an extraordinary drinking session onboard involving many senior officers. The whistleblower claimed that in her class of 50 women, she knows of at least five other women who were forcibly raped during their sea year.

As soon as I woke up I could feel that I was very sore and knew exactly what had happened

In the comments below the article, many other readers have also come forward with similar experiences of sexual harassment while serving as cadets.

“Around 6 or 7 AM I woke up in my bed completely naked, and began freaking out,” the post from the alleged victim states, going on to detail: “My clothes were all over the floor and they were soaking wet, I had a massive hangover, there was blood on my sheets, and I knew immediately that I had been raped. I was a virgin and had been saving myself, and as soon as I woke up I could feel that I was very sore and knew exactly what had happened.”

The US Department of Transportation and Maritime Administration has started an investigation into the incident and the allegation that other cadets have been sexually assaulted both at sea and on the premises of the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in New York state. Maersk has also initiated its own investigation and a review of its policies for cadets onboard its own ships.

There have been previous incidents of sexual harassment at the academy including a high profile case five years ago and a $1.4m settlement last year for another victim.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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