Author's Note: Writing this article was extremely difficult for me to write as I have never before revealed the intimate details of my rape. I am only writing this article to let other victims know that you can survive the effects of rape and that there is hope for your future.
My interview on ABC's Primetime
Airdate: April 14, 2006
My Interview on Inside Edition: Cruise Rape Victims
My Interview on A Current Affair: A Crime at Sea
My name is Jamie. I was born March 1, 1987 in beautiful Anchorage, Alaska where I lived until 1998. I was eleven at the time. My family and I were about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime: traveling through the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico in a motorhome and then culminating our travels by purchasing and living on a sailboat. We packed up everything that could fit into our 32 foot motorhome. There were five of us: my brother, sister, my parents and me...and of course my best friend also was going with us. His name was Shadow. He was four at the time, half chocolate lab and half Newfoundland. For the next seven months we traveled the country seeing the sights and enjoying home school.
When our motorhome trip finally came to an end, we were literally across the country in Tampa Bay, Florida. As a grand finale to our travels before moving into our new sailboat, my parents decided we should all go on a cruise. Unfortunately, Shadow had to stay on shore while we went on the cruise, and then he had to return to Anchorage and live with our relatives since it would be too hard for him to live on a boat.
On May23, 1999, the five of us climbed the long ramp onto the cruise ship where we would be spending the next seven days making unforgettable memories and seeing things most people only dream about. We were going on a cruise around the Caribbean! It truly was a dream come true, or so we thought.
On the ship, there were several activities arranged for certain age groups. Kids up to twelve did "kid stuff" and those who were thirteen and older were in the teen group. I had just turned twelve a few months earlier, but I didn't want to be in the kid group so we got permission for me to be with the older kids. We did all kinds of things like dancing, swimming, and playing ping pong tournaments. It was so much fun! I really liked not feeling like I was being babysat and my parents felt at ease about what we were doing. It was almost like a camp knowing that we would be safe and supervised.
On May 27, 1999, five days into the cruise, the teen group went swimming together in the main pool. It was early afternoon. After swimming, we decided we'd have a ping pong tournament before eating dinner together but first I wanted to change out of my wet bathing suit and put on some normal clothes. I was wearing a slip-on dress over my bathing suit. I told the group I would just meet them later and told them to go on without me because I wanted to clean up first. On this particular day, we just happened to be in port in Mexico. Since our stateroom was a few floors down, I walked to the elevator a few feet from the pool and pushed the button. Just as I pushed the button, a crew member came up behind me. He was wearing a name tag and had a crewman's uniform on. He got into the elevator with me. I really thought nothing of it at the time. He stood behind me in the right corner of the elevator and asked me if I was having a nice day. What was strange was he already knew my name but still, at twelve, nothing seemed really odd to me. Then he asked me if I wanted to see where the dolphins play. Of course I said "yes!". He was a uniformed crew member so I had no reason to be afraid or to even think twice about it. He said he needed to do something first but would meet me there. So I said, "okay" but I was a little weirded out but not too worried. He told me how to get there on a map that was posted in the elevator. Then he got off at the next floor. So I followed his instructions and did what he told me to do. When I got to the door, a little voice inside me told me to get away from there as fast as I could. He was not there yet so I turned around and started to head back down the long hallway to the elevator but right before I got there I heard my name. It was him. I turned around and it was almost as if he had just appeared from no where. He asked where I was going and said, "don't you want to see the dolphins?". I was nervous but headed back towards him even though every bone in my body was saying "no!". I ignored what I was feeling. I was a child and I had no idea of the danger I was really in.
When we got back to the door, he told me to wait around the corner because passengers were not usually allowed to go where he was taking me. I felt special. I was going somewhere I was not allowed. No one else would get to see the dolphins. I then heard him yell something in Spanish through the door. I thought again about leaving but by that time he was already leading me through the doorway. I hesitantly walked through the door to find myself in a room full of huge blue machinery. He told me to follow him, so I did as I was told. We walked to the front of the room and he pointed to a small porthole. I looked through it and realized we were at the very front of the ship. When I looked around the room again, I saw that it came to a "V" shape. I realized I was at the very front of the boat.
He then started making conversation with me, not just small talk. He knew things about me that he could not possibly have known without researching it. He knew my dog's name (Shadow), my brother and sister's names, my cabin number, and my brother's birthday. At this point, it was obvious that he had been stalking me. There is no way he could have known about Shadow unless he had heard me or a family member talking about him. Again, at age 12, I knew this was bad and I knew I was in trouble but I still had no idea to what extent. I knew I had to get out of there but I did not know how since he was between me and the door. I was so scared. I was the most scared I had ever been in my life but I didn't want him to see that. I started walking back towards the door. The environment was still very casual. I almost made it, within only ten yards to the door. I was standing next to what looked like a giant wench. It was huge, blue, and round. I'd seen things like this on smaller boats but never one this big. It was taller and longer than I was. This piece of machinery will forever be in my mind because this is where it all started. This is where he made his move.
This crewman asked me how old I was and since I had figured out his intentions, I thought this might be a way out, a simple mistake. May be he thought I was 18 or older and was interested in him. For a second, this made me feel a little better so I relaxed a little and replied that I had just turned twelve. Then I decided to come up with an excuse to get out of there thinking he would realize his mistake and we would just go our separate ways. I told him my dad and I were going snorkeling before we left port that day so I needed to get going before he got worried. Man, was I ever wrong. He used this information against me when he said, "I thought you were a swimmer." "You look like one. You have a really strong back." This was the point where my whole life would change forever. He said, "have you ever had your back popped?" I said "no, but I should go." He kept pushing. "Just let me pop your back. It will feel good then you can go." Completely freaked out of my mind, I still thought he would just let me go. I said okay and he did pop my back but then he said, "okay, now you pop mine." I told him I didn't want to, that I needed to go but he told me I had to pop his back because he had popped mine. He actually made me feel bad for not touching him. I told him I did not know how and he said he would show me again. I told him my dad would be worried if I did not leave soon. He said I had to. I did not know what to do. He was still between me and the door. I had no where to go. No one knew where I was and no one could here me. He knew what he was doing from the moment he stepped into the elevator and most likely long before that.
Again, he said "do my back, then we can go." I felt I had no choice, no control. He had all the power. I fearfully wrapped my arms around him. He said I was doing it wrong. I was too far away. In one fast move, he wrapped his arms around my back and pulled me tight against his body. I could feel his penis. It was hard. He leaned down and in my ear asked me if I liked it. I said "no" through soft, quiet tears. I wanted to run and he just smiled, almost laughed even. The next thing I remember he pinned me against the giant blue wench, pressing hs pelvis hard against my body and started kissing my ear and touching my breasts, playing with me like I was a toy. He took off my dress, then laid it down on the cold, white metal floor and told me to lie down. Now sobbing I screamed "no!" He said it again but this time in a cold, harsh voice. I don't know how I was even breathing since my heart was fluttering so fast. I could not think straight as so many thoughts were racing through my brain but one thought stood out the most. I knew I was in the process of being raped...and I was!. He laid me down. He continued to touch me, kiss me on my neck, ear, and lips. I tried to scream but could only choke on the taste of my own tears as they streamed down my face. I tried to scream again. This time sound came from my throat but it was no use. He just smirked. No one could hear me. When he was finished, he stood up and looked down at me lying there. All I could think about was how much it hurt. He must have known what I was thinking. He leaned close to my ear (I was shaking uncontrollably). I could feel his warm, gross breath and then he said, "don't ever tell anyone about this because I will find you and kill you and then I will hurt your family, your mom, your dad, Brendan, Joy and then your best friend, Shadow. I promise I will find you wherever you are." Then he left. He just walked out and left me there. He was not the least bit scared of me or of what I might say and unfortunately he was right.
I don't know how long I laid there, bleeding, in pain, on my own clothes. When I finally did get up, I went directly to our stateroom and got into the shower with my bloody clothes, just trying to get myself together and just tried to convince myself that this horrific thing had not really happened to me as I watched my blood go down the drain. I don't know how long I sat under the hot water, just wishing I could die right there.
When I finally did gather myself and got out of the shower, I actually had almost convinced myself that I was okay. Little did I know just how wrong I was. I actually thought I could live my life like nothing had ever happened. Part of me believed that I had done something wrong and that I had brought this on myself somehow. Victims always blame themselves.
After changing my clothes, I went to look for the rest of the teen group who by this time had already played their ping pong tournament. (Several hours had passed.) I really was okay (I thought). I found the group towards the back of the ship where they had gathered together, just hanging out, and talking to the teen leader. When I arrived, I just joined in as though nothing was odd about being gone for several hours. I simply said that I had fallen asleep. It was not until one of my friends, Ryan, noticed something wasn't right and came up from behind me and put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was okay. As soon as he touched me, I violently jerked away and then he really knew something was wrong. He asked me again but at this point it was just the two of us. I felt my eyes welling up with tears. I kept hearing my attacker's voice, "I will find you and kill you." I knew I had to think quick of something to say. By now, I was sobbing uncontrollably. The group leader and the group were trying to calm me down just so I could breathe. I did not know what to do or how to feel. Every part of me was scared to death, almost blinded by it. But now others were involved. They knew something was really wrong.
So the group leader took me to a place where just the two of us could talk. I had to tell her something so I told her just part of the truth. A crew member took me to a machine room where he hugged me, and touched me (not in an inappropriate way) and that I was frightened. She immediately took me to the security office. My parents were called and soon arrived in the office with worried expressions on their faces. I honestly don't know what scared me more. The fact that I had just been raped or that the rapist would come and "find me and kill me" if I told anyone. So, I only revealed that the crew member had scared me and had hugged me. I told no one that I had been raped and they never asked. At first, the security personnel made it painfully clear that they did not believe what I had told them so I reasoned that if they did not believe what I had just said, why in the hell would they ever believe I had just been raped? This was one more reason not to tell them.
The security personnel told me (before my parents arrived) that they did not believe me, that I had a wild imagination and I had made it all up. It really pissed me off that they did not believe me. After my parents arrived, they told me to take them to the room. I assume the reasoning was that a passenger could not possibly know how to get to this room since it was off-limits to passengers. So I had to take everyone back to the horrible room where I had just been brutally raped in order for security to take me seriously. Their face expressions literally went from smug to worried the moment I led everyone directly to the room. They finally understood that I definitely had been to that room before.
For the next few hours, I looked through picture composites of crewmen. I picked out ten pictures of crewmen who resembled my rapist but I was so traumatized that I knew I could never pick him out for fear of my life and the lives of my family. Remember, I was just twelve years old. Security then gathered these ten men to work on a project so that I could see them in person without them seeing me. I was told to pick out the man who has assaulted me but not before the ship authorities sternly warned me to be absolutely sure who I picked out because if I made a mistake I would ruin a man's life forever. One more good reason not to tell anyone what had really happened to me.
There were two days left in our cruise but nothing else was done. I did tell my little brother who was almost ten at the time about the rape and I also told my best friend, Shadow (my dog). But my brother was too young to understand and my dog couldn't talk. Then just a few days later, I had to say good bye to Shadow forever as we were about to move on to a sailboat for the next two years so we had to give him to my aunt and uncle. I was devastated. In the space of only a week, I had lost my innocense and then my best friend.
After that, my mind did its best to just block the whole incident from my memory. It wasn't until almost a year later when my first period started that the horrible memory was triggered once again. When I saw the blood, it all came rushing back in vivid, horrific flashbacks which I still have from time to time even today. I was living in total fear of losing my life if I told anyone. This was the beginning of the downward spiral of my life, a fall I thought would never end. But you must hit rock bottom in order to start the long climb back to a healthy life. I was bulimic and I was experiencing so many symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome: nightmares, flashbacks, claustrophobia, and so much more, but no one understood what was wrong with me.
Two years later, after a friend confided in me about how she had been sexually assaulted at a young age, I confided in her that I had been raped at age twelve while on a cruise. Once again, she did not believe me but said nothing to me about not believing me. Instead, she went directly to my mom who, of course, knew nothing about it. Three years had passed by and I still thought I was okay until the day my mom asked, "Jamie, Jessie told me you were raped. Were you?" I actually thought about how to answer her question. Finally I looked her directly in the eye and said "yes." Then I had to explain to her that it had happened on the cruise. She was stunned. The terrible secret was finally revealed. The healing could finally begin.
Shortly after I finally revealed my rape, we decided to sue Carnival Cruise Line. They definitely had not kept me safe and who knows how many other victims there really are. We settled my case out of court which did give me a little bit of justice. I have been healing from my ordeal with the wonderful help of my therapist, good friends, and most importantly my family. I got lucky because I have a very strong support system which has helped get me through the hardest part of my ordeal. Two years ago if you had told me I would be happy again, really, truly happy with myself, I would have thought you were crazy. But finally, I am happy with me. I just graduated from high school with over a B average, something I never thought would ever happen to me and I will be attending a state university in the fall. My future is bright again.
For other victims of rape who are reading my story and who are still keeping their own terrible secret, please know that your life really can get better. You really can get through this. I know because I did it. Reach out to someone and let your healing process begin....today.