Victims' Rights Caucus


President Obama signs landmark cruise safety legislation
By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

President Barack Obama today signed legislation that requires cruise lines to contact the FBI and the U. S. Coast Guard as soon as a suspicious death or assault of a passenger on a ship is reported.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, passed earlier this month by Congress, also requires the agencies be notified after the disappearance of a U.S. national from a ship, and it requires that passengers claiming sexual assault be given immediate access to a national sexual assault hotline as well as a sexual assault forensic exam and medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Ships also will be required to install peep holes on cabin doors and make other changes.

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., who joined the President at the signing along with a constituent, Laurie Dishman of Sacramento, Calif., who wrote to Matsui four years ago saying she was sexually assaulted on a cruise ship and needed help.

"The President's signature on this legislation is a significant milestone for American consumers and the traveling public," Matsui says in a statement. It "will improve the safety and security of all cruise ship passengers traveling in and out of U.S. waters, and provide common-sense security measures to prevent crimes from occurring and protections and support for victims and their families if and when they do."

Dishman thanked Matsui at the signing.

"Congresswoman Matsui has taken the lead on this very important issue and has helped raise awareness about crimes on cruise ships all over the world," Dishman said. "I cannot thank her enough for not only answering my letter, but for helping to make it safer for passengers when taking a cruise ... it was an honor to stand with her once again today, and to personally thank the President for enacting legislation that will make sure no one will ever again have to go through what I did."

The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents major lines operating in U.S. waters, says it supports the legislation, noting that it already does as a matter of standard practice much of what is required in the new law.

"We share Congress' efforts to ensure that cruising remains safe," CLIA president and CEO Terry Dale said today in a statement on the signing. "The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA's number one priority. Although millions of guests each year enjoy a safe cruise vacation, we welcome the opportunity to ensure consistency across our member line fleets."

Dale says that while many ships in the CLIA fleet already feature 42-inch railings, peepholes in all cabins, onboard video surveillance systems and other items required in the legislation, the new law will make these and other new provisions consistent across the fleet.

"We appreciate the work Congress and the administration have done to bring consistency and clarity to the security and safety laws and regulations for our industry," Dale says. "We look forward to continuing our longstanding work with the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, and law enforcement both here and around the world to ensure the bill's provisions are implemented appropriately."

Matsui joined with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in the Senate to push through the legislation, which was supported by several victims' rights organizations including the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), a nonprofit organization that represents victims of crimes on cruise ships, and the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN).

"Today marks the beginning of a new accountability for any crimes that are committed against passengers on cruise ships," Ken