Denmark-based commercial shipping giant Maersk suspended five crew members who were allegedly associated with the rape of a then 19-year-old back in 2019. The girl announced the incident through an explosive blog post last month.
The current senior in the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, said in her post that she was the only female cadet onboard during the Sea Year program. The program helps these cadets to gain experience about life in the sea as they will be appointed to the armed forces of different merchant vessels around the world.
In her grueling account of the event, the woman said that the engineers of the Maersk ship forced her and one of her male batchmates to drink hard liquor to get intoxicated and in the next morning, she found herself in the bed, completely naked.
“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,” said the woman behind the penname Midshipman X.
But she also added that it was not a separate incident as she was the victim of the predatory nature of her supervisor and the second in command. She also added that she vaguely remembers the same men undress and force themselves on her but due to the influence of liquor, she fails to remember the flow of the event. Later that day, when the supervisor called her into his room and she accused her of the event, he denied the entire accusation and threatened her to not bring it up with the captain.
She added, “Back in my room I decided that the only thing I could do was to tough it out. No one was going to believe me, and toughing it out was the only option I felt like I had. I was trapped.”
But to her surprise, she was just one of the many, nine on her campus at that time only, to experience rape at sea. This knowledge helped her muster the courage and with the help of a non-profit organization, she posted her blog anonymously.
The blog spread like wildfire and soon caught international attention, prompting immediate action from the company. Bill Woodhour, CEO of the company’s US subsidiary, Maersk Line, Limited, said, “We are shocked and deeply saddened about what we have read. We take this situation seriously and are disturbed by the allegations made in this anonymous posting which has only recently been brought to our attention. We do everything we can to ensure that all of our workplace environments, including vessels, are a safe and welcoming workplace and we’ve launched a top to the bottom investigation.”
The company tweeted, “We are deeply disturbed by the allegation of assault on our vessel and want to express our heartfelt support for the anonymous individual who has recently shared her story.”
A Maersk Line, Limited (MLL) investigation is taking place. 5 officers and crew have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. MLL is working closely with the U.S. labor unions, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Trade Unions across the board have also expressed their concerns over the number of sexual harassment incidents that have been recorded and have agreed to comply with the government investigation.
Interestingly, Sea Year was previously suspended under similar dark allegations back in 2016 but was reintroduced after implementing new rules and laws. Midshipman X also added that she has not spoken to a single one of her 50 seniors who are women “who has told me that she has not been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or degraded at some point during the last 3 years at the Academy or during Sea Year. Most people, and even the leaders of our school, do not seem to understand how serious this problem is, especially at sea.”
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