After Sexual Assault On Board

Part of our mission is to carry out research so as to be able to clarify the information that is available to seafarers and make it easier for them to seek medical attention and report assaults. In light of this, this page will be updated as information is found and connections are made with other organisations.

The content of this page is provided for information purposes only and is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. It is not intended to be legal advice, if you require legal advice, you should consult a lawyer.

If you have been sexually assaulted or raped on board, the first priority is taking care of yourself, and deciding what is best for you.

A crime has been committed against you and you should be able to report this and seek support and justice. The reality is that it may not be safe for you to follow official reporting channels on board, and depending on the next port of call, you may not be able to seek help there either. You are the best judge of what is right for you in the particular circumstances.

It is important to remember that whether you report or not, seek medical attention or not, it does not make your experience any more or less valid. Nobody should make that choice for you, or try to pressure you into reporting or having a medical examination.

Conviction rates for in rape cases are notoriously low. In 2019 UK figures show that only 3.3% of reported rapes resulted in a successful prosecution.

The likelihood of a successful prosecution following rape at sea, is further reduced by the resources available and the complications of determining jurisdiction.

However this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, if it feels like the best course of action for you. There are actions you can take that will increase the chances of bringing the perpetrator to justice.

If you do not wish to report the attack through official channels, there are still things you can do that might help you later:

Write down what happened. This may be painful, but it may help you in the future to have a record to refer back to. After a very traumatic event, the mind can block certain memories, making you doubt yourself.

If you can, talk to someone you trust. Sharing the experience can help give you perspective and aid the healing process. It can also help if you do decide to report at a later date, as there will be somebody who knew about the incident at the time.

Supporting a Friend – This resource from The Havens website explains how you can support a friend who has experienced sexual assault.

two people holding hands

Remember it can take many years for survivors to start talking about sexual abuse. If you were alone at sea, you may have done anything that was necessary to ensure your safety and survival at that time, without even consciously realizing it. You may find yourself thinking about events that happened years ago, and want to talk about them now. Contacting a Rape Crisis service in your home country would be a good place to start as they can provide counselling and other services.