Protecting Victims or Protecting the Brand? Secondary Victimization and Cruise Ship Crime

Publication Name

Journal of Interpersonal Violence


It is now widely recognized that victims of crime in general, and victims of sexual offences in particular, commonly experience secondary victimization resulting from dismissive, poor, and sometimes retraumatizing treatment when they encounter the formal criminal justice system. However, little is known about victims’ experiences when initially reporting crime outside of the formal justice system, for example crime that occurs during cruise ship holidays. The cruise industry is the fastest growing tourism sector. The total number of passengers onboard cruise ships internationally was expected to reach 30 million in 2019. There is limited reliable data about how many people experience crime onboard cruise ships, though crime victimization does occur. While victimization onboard cruise ships has received some attention, there is a dearth of evidence about when and how victims report crime, how victims are treated when they report their experience of crime to cruise ship companies, or the justice outcomes. Nor does the available data address whether victims of crime from diverse social groups are treated differently by cruise companies. Drawing on qualitative accounts produced by primary and secondary victims of crime onboard cruise ships, it is argued that as well as the known challenges that victims face, the addition of brand protection can compound cruise ship victims’ experiences of secondary victimization. Secondary victimization refers to additional, or compounded harms experienced because of social or systemic responses to their experience of crime. There are three key implications of these findings: greater understanding of crime victims’ experiences should be developed via refined, mandatory reporting of crime onboard cruise ships, and robust qualitative research; cruise ship staff need improved specialized training in responding to victims of crime, and legislation should be considered mandating an independent authority onboard cruise ships to receive, investigate and monitor victimization reports and responses.

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