US detectives have boarded the Holland America Line cruise ship MS Veendam and arrested a waiter who allegedly had a brief sexual encounter with a 15-year-old female passenger in a cabin bathroom.
The arrest report said the girl had been travelling with her family and the incident happened after the waiter, a 26-year-old Indonesian man, finished his shift.
Sheriff’s deputies from Broward County in Florida say the suspect met the teen on the 12th deck of the ship and the two began to kiss. News channel WPLG Local10 quoted deputies saying the two went into a bathroom, where the waiter locked the door and the teen performed oral sex on him.
The victim reported the incident to staff the next day and detectives subsequently interviewed the suspect, who allegedly confessed to receiving oral sex from the girl.
The report said the girl’s father expressed his desire to prosecute, whereupon the suspect was arrested on a charge of committing a lewd and lascivious act involving a minor.
The crime of lewd and lascivious conduct is classified under Florida law as a second degree felony. If the suspect is convicted, the judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:
- Up to fifteen (15) years in prison.
- Up to fifteen (15) years of sex offender probation.
- Up to USD 10,000 in fines.
The suspect was last reported being held in the maximum security jail facility next to the Broward County Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Jim Walker, a noted Miami-based maritime lawyer, commented in his Cruise Law blog that the incident was “exactly the type of sexual misconduct that families need to understand happens all too often on family cruise vacations, no matter how hard the cruise industry tries to parse words to keep it secret”.
Walker said a lobby group, International Cruise Victims, had tried to introduce legislation requiring the cruise industry to disclose when children were victims of crime. Several years ago, a study had determined that between 17.5% and 30% of the sexual assault victims on cruise ships were minors, Walker wrote.
“The cruise industry vigorously opposed the legislation and refuses to disclose when children are sexually assaulted on their ships.”
Written by Peter Needham