A female cruise ship passenger, who used a corkscrew to defend herself when a crazed rapist invaded her cabin in the middle of the night, has commenced legal action against Holland America Line for “gross negligence”.
The rapist, a crewmember, sprang without warning into the woman’s darkened cabin from its balcony one night early last year. He launched into a vicious and frenzied sexual assault, bludgeoning the victim with a laptop computer and a curling iron during the process. He then tried to hurl the victim overboard off the coast of Honduras.
The victim was in a US court earlier this year to see her attacker jailed for 30 years.
Now the victim (a woman from the US state of Michigan, whose identity has been suppressed) is suing the cruise company for gross negligence, seeking several hundred million dollars, Britain’s Daily Mirror has reported.
The claim relates to the speed with which ship crew members are alleged to have responded.
When the victim awoke partially naked, she managed to flee down the hall with the cord of a curling iron wrapped around her neck.
Panicked passengers called the ship’s emergency services, but the victim’s lawyer alleges that it took them between 40 minutes and an hour to respond.
This was because the call was given a low priority, according to her lawyer, a claim Holland America Line denies.
A spokesperson for Holland America told the paper the line was “terribly saddened that this event occurred.
“Our thoughts, prayers and support remain with the victim and we are committed to a fair and collaborative resolution of this tragic event. It is right that justice prevailed and the perpetrator was sentenced accordingly.
“To our knowledge, no incident like this has occurred before in our company’s 142-year history. It is our highest priority to ensure the safety and security of our guests.
“We do strongly refute the statement that emergency calls to our staff related to this situation were given anything but the highest priority.”
The ship involved was Holland America Line’s MS Nieuw Amsterdam, operating a seven-day Western Caribbean charter cruise out of Port Everglades.
As well as stabbing her attacker with a corkscrew, the victim fought back valiantly by striking his exposed genitals as he raped, beat, punched and half strangled her.
The passenger now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and cannot be left alone for more than a few minutes, a Miami court heard earlier this year, when the attacker, Ketut Pujayasa, 29, from Bali, was sentenced.
“It shocked me I was still alive,” the victim told the judge.
Federal prosecutors say the victim, who was aged 31 at the time of the attack, survived only because of her extraordinary physical strength and her training as an aerial acrobat and gym teacher, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
Pujayasa pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder.
The court learned he used his steward’s master key to let himself into the victim’s cabin and lay in wait on the balcony.
The victim woke to what she called “a human shadow trying to kill me with his bare hands”.
Pujayasa told investigators that after the attack he crept, naked from the waist down, along the outside of the ship to break into another cabin via the balcony and make his escape into the interior of the ship.
The only suggestion of any motive is that Pujayasa claimed the victim had called out “Wait a minute, son of a bitch,” when he had tried to deliver her cabin-service breakfast on a previous occasion.
The victim, who has no recollection of saying any such thing, doesn’t remember ever seeing Pujayasa before the attack. She suffered devastating injuries, including multiple fractures, contusion and broken teeth.
“He has changed the way I live forever,” the victim wrote. “He took my dreams, he took my independence, he took my self-esteem.”
Written by Peter Needham