My name is Alyssa. I am a woman living in Texas, and this is the story of what happened to me on a cruise. I cannot tell the whole story, because I was not conscious during part of it and my whereabouts during that time are not definitely known. Much of the information here was provided by my mother, Judy, and my daughter, Emily, then 16.
In September 2015, a group of family and friends embarked on a five-day, four-night cruise to Mexico with a major cruise line. (I am not identifying the cruise line here for legal reasons.) Joining me on this excursion down the coast of Mexico were my mother and daughter; my mother’s friend, Clarissa; and my friend, Jennifer. (All names except my own are pseudonyms.) In April that year, I had also taken a cruise, so was not unfamiliar with the industry. I have also traveled abroad.
The cruise began uneventfully, with the usual orientation and evacuation drills, followed by dinner, shows, and meeting new people. On the third night, Jennifer, Emily and I went on a shore excursion to see Cozumel, Mexico, a city I had not visited before. We went to a restaurant, where at some point two men, one Caucasian and one Hispanic, struck up conversations with us. They were from our cruise ship, but we had not met them before. They definitely seemed odd, and very possibly were on drugs. Their eyes were red, their conversation was about drug cartels and other unpleasant things, and generally they gave off strange vibes. My daughter, who felt uncomfortable in their presence, persuaded me to leave.
Later that night, back on the ship, we encountered them again. Not wanting them to think we were interested in talking with them, we drifted away. On the last night of the cruise, the Caucasian man came over to our group again while we were in a shipboard lounge. Again, his eyes were red and he gave the impression of being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.
Uninterested in his company, my daughter Emily left and went to be with my mother. At this point, her story will take over the narrative, for reasons that will become clear. Emily spent an almost sleepless night in our cabin, worried because I hadn’t come back. The next morning, while the ship’s captain was rousing people to prepare for disembarking, she woke up Jennifer and told her that I hadn’t returned since last night. They then went to Guest Services to find out what had happened to me. They soon were joined there by my mother and Clarissa, who were eating breakfast when they heard my name being paged.
While the four were there, they learned that my debit card had been found and turned in. This in itself was alarming, as cruise passengers can use the ship’s card for purchases and other expenses on board; debit and credit cards aren’t necessary. The four then returned to my cabin, where they found me. According to my mother, I had changed clothes but was clearly disoriented and confused. A crew member in all whites was also there, but seemed to be in a hurry to leave. My daughter at that point became quite upset, according to my mother, and went to her cabin.
While in line waiting to disembark, my daughter later said, I kept dropping a folder with exit papers, allowing the contents to spill out on the floor. This happened four or five times, and apparently I continued to act in a dazed and indifferent manner.
According to my mother, on the last night of the cruise, when we had returned to the ship, the two men were in our company again. The Hispanic man was talking with me, while the Caucasian was talking with Jennifer. As the bar was closing, the bartender told him that he could have a last drink. My mother said that she felt vaguely uneasy about the situation, but finally, reluctantly went to bed at 2:30 a.m., leaving me there.
Later, while we were waiting to pick up our car, the Hispanic man walked by, looking very disheveled, and said hello to me. During the ride home, he apparently texted me as well. About three hours into the drive, I am told, the argument between my daughter and I in our cabin was brought up. I couldn’t even remember that it had happened, much less anything that was said.
My daughter noticed that I had a number of physical issues, among them finger bruises, missing clumps of hair, extremely swollen ankles, smeared makeup and missing acrylic fingernails. Once we got home, my family concluded that I had been drugged and raped while I was away from them on the last night of the cruise, and persuaded me to be checked out.
They took me to a hospital, where photographing and measuring the bruises alone took about two and a half hours. Other tests for evidence were also carried out, including nine vaginal swabs, a cervix examination, deposits on my thighs, and handprints of two sizes on my body.
In a subsequent call to the cruise line, a customer supervisor told me that it was “very common” for women passengers to wake up in the cabins of other passengers after consuming too much alcohol. (At no time did the supervisor say that I had been found in any cabin, or tell me where or whether I had been found during the seven to eight hours she was missing during the final night of the cruise. Nor was any evidence advanced to show that, in fact, I had drunk too much at the bar.)
I was also told that shipboard security cameras do not record in all areas. They watch the activities of dealers and other employees in the ship casino, but security recording elsewhere is intermittent or nonexistent. They also said that my case had been referred to the FBI, but otherwise declined to comment, other than saying that the Cruise Vessel Safety Act of 2010 did not apply to them.
Returning home has not ended the after-effects. At the time of writing this, I am continuing to have blood samples drawn testing for sexually transmitted diseases. I also have had to take high dosages of medicine, although I lean toward holistic medicine.
I had to quit my job, which involved extensive traveling and public contact, and am getting ongoing counseling. I have been diagnosed as having acquired post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and agoraphobia (fear of large open spaces), and suffer from flashbacks.
My daughter continues to have problems sleeping, and worried that the two men from the cruise will show up at our house. (They live less than an hour’s drive away.) We have installed yard lights and taken other security precautions. She also admits to having a more negative view of men generally, and our relationship has deteriorated.
My mother also remains apprehensive and sleeps poorly, but is determined to continue seeking justice.
Besides trying my best to discourage the unwanted approaches of these two men, I reported them to cruise ship personnel three times during the voyage: once to a bar bouncer on the third night of the cruise, and twice on the final night. Apparently nothing did any good.