Government suspends training at sea program after college student says she and others were raped

The choice by the Department of Transportation, which oversees the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), got here simply weeks earlier than college students have been set to embark on their “Sea Year” voyage, by which college students are sometimes despatched in pairs to work alongside older, predominantly male crew members.

In a letter to college students notifying them that this system has been quickly suspended, college and transportation officers mentioned the academy and the maritime trade have been confronting a “challenging time” and that the choice to halt this system was “one of the most difficult we have faced.”

Just days earlier, congressional lawmakers expressed concern that college students on the academy have been being put at risk whereas taking part within the Sea Year program.

Sea Year was designed to offer college students on the academy, positioned in Kings Point, New York, with invaluable expertise engaged on business vessels and is likely one of the college’s main attracts, with many hoping to go on to develop into engineers and leaders within the transport trade.

Officials advised college students on Tuesday that Sea Year wouldn’t resume till they have been in a position to put collectively an in depth plan with new security measures as requested by lawmakers. They mentioned crusing would not resume till December on the very earliest. The letter didn’t present particulars in regards to the adjustments however mentioned that some have been already within the works and being mentioned with each the college neighborhood and the maritime trade. Lawmakers had additionally referred to as for the resignation of USMMA’s superintendent Jack Buono, however no management adjustments have been introduced and Buono was one of many officers concerned with Tuesday’s motion.

This is the second time in 5 years that Sea Year has been halted amid issues about sexual assault and harassment.

The academy first suspended this system again in 2016, earlier than reinstating it the next 12 months and pledging that new guidelines and a zero-tolerance coverage for sexual assault and harassment would maintain cadets protected each on campus and at sea. Since then, college studies present that college students have been reluctant to report instances of sexual assault partly as a result of they’ve been so apprehensive that Sea Year could be canceled once more.
But a present pupil did resolve to return ahead anonymously this fall, bringing the college underneath hearth as soon as once more. Known as Midshipman-X, the lady wrote on-line that she was raped by her supervisor, a senior crew member, in 2019 whereas aboard a Maersk ship throughout Sea Year. She mentioned that she was the one feminine on the ship and that for the subsequent 50 days, she needed to proceed to work for her assailant and see him daily.

While she mentioned she was too scared to report the crime on the time, she determined to share her expertise after studying that 9 different feminine college students presently enrolled on the academy mentioned they’d additionally been raped throughout their Sea Year.

As her story circulated among the many USMMA neighborhood and others within the maritime trade, Maersk suspended 5 crew members and each the corporate and the federal authorities have been investigating the reported rape.

Midshipman-X responded to the latest information on Wednesday, writing that whereas it has been rewarding to see conversations taking place about altering the trade, she has additionally come underneath “pressure and scrutiny” that has elevated with the choice to droop Sea Year.

She mentioned this system is an important a part of the college and that “if anything were accomplished by the first Sea Year suspension, it was only that the problems grew worse” — saying that broader trade adjustments are wanted to carry predators accountable and maintain them off ships.

“It was never my goal to see Sea Year suspended,” she wrote. “If every cadet is removed from the industry, then yes, cadets won’t be assaulted on ships. But other mariners will still be assaulted, recent graduates of the Academy will still be assaulted, and nothing will have changed.”

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