*Names are changed in our stories to protect our contributors.
Trigger Warning – This story contains descriptions of sexual assault which some readers may find distressing.
Here are the stories I’m willing to share.
1990s, deckhand on a sailing ship
One of the adult volunteers was well-known among the younger girls for his habit of getting a bit too close, of waiting outside our homes when we were ashore, and getting far too “friendly”. We used to sleep in one cabin, in the hope that there would be safety in numbers. It sometimes
worked. One day I was cleaning the cabin on my own when he slapped a hand over my mouth and pushed me onto the bunk. I fought back and made a noisy fuss. The rest of the crew were on deck, apart from the cook who yelled out to stop making a racket, he was busy. It didn’t last long, but it was long enough.
It was the first time, so I tried speaking up. I told the captain what had been happening. He called me a liar. The chief officer asked me what I expected, living on a ship with grown men, and told me to grow up and stop causing trouble. I was too scared to go to the police. He left me alone after that, but it continued for the others. Eventually, after multiple complaints over about a year, they finally banned him – and apologised to him for being forced to do so.
2000s, OS on a small cargo ship
The crew were a rough crowd with several alcoholics. I was asleep when I awoke to a loud crash. My door swung open. A crew member was there, drunk (as usual) holding a hammer and staggering towards my bunk, trying to pull his tracksuit pants down with one hand. Fortunately for me, he was drunk enough that it was fairly easy to get away.
2000s, second mate on a small cargo ship
We were alongside, discharging. At about 0200, I walked onto the wharf to check the drafts. The foreman asked me to come and sort out some paperwork. Once we were out of sight of the ship, he and two other stevedores jumped me. I can’t remember very much about that fight – just flashes. I don’t really want to remember it. I was sore for several days. The AB on duty claimed not to have heard anything. I didn’t bother reporting it – as a foreigner and a seafarer, with no witnesses, I didn’t believe there was much chance of anyone taking action.
2000s, chief mate on a small cargo ship
I’d been on the same ship for six months, and got on well enough with the captain as a colleague. I was in my twenties, he was in his sixties. We were alone in his office with the door open watching the news, as we had every evening for months. He was drinking. When the news finished, I got up to leave. He physically blocked me, grabbed my breasts, and tried
to kiss me.
2010s, second mate, a large bulk carrier in dry-dock
It was around midnight, and I was on deck adjusting some hatch fittings. There was another crew member about two hundred metres away on the other side of the ship. The dockyard manager came up behind me, pinned me against the hatch and started groping me through my overalls. I pushed him away and told him that if he didn’t back off, I’d hit him (I was holding a hatch bar at the time). He tried again, so I hit him over the head and moved to the other side of the ship.
The following morning I told the captain what had happened, and asked if I could take over the jobs that didn’t involve me being alone around the dry-dock workers as it wasn’t the first time I’d had trouble. He refused, told me it was my own fault for “leading them on”, and said that if the dockyard manager put in a complaint, he’d let the authorities deal with me.