Two female students at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy filed lawsuits on Wednesday against the shipping company Maersk alleging sexual harassment during a training program aboard one of its commercial ships, according to a news release by their legal team.
The two women, an anonymous 19-year-old and midshipman Hope Hicks, claim Maersk "failed to adequately protect them from sexual assault and sexual harassment" while they were fulfilling the USMMA's required Sea Year program.
The anonymous 19-year-old woman, referred to as Midshipman-Y in filing, was "so severely sexually harassed" on the Maersk ship that she "slept clutching a knife for protection."
"Midshipman-Y was severely sexually harassed by a crew member who was known to other Maersk officers and crew members as being violent," the release read, referencing the complaint.
"Although crew members and officers were allegedly aware of the harassment, no one intervened or reported the misconduct."
Hicks alleges in her complaint that she was raped on board by one of the ship's top-ranked officers, who was more than 40 years her senior.
"When Hicks confronted the officer, she was told no one would believe her if she made a report," the release cited the complaint as stating.
"If it's the commanding officers who are assaulting you and harassing you, who are you going to report to?" Hicks asked CNN in an interview.
"Those are the people you are supposed to trust. I did not feel like the school could protect me. I did not feel like the school would believe me. I certainly did not feel like anyone on my ship would believe me."
The complaints from Midshipman-Y and Hicks are not the first time the USMMA has had trouble with Sea Year, The Hill reported.
In 2016, the program was temporarily suspended amid allegations of rampant sexual assaults and harassment of cadets. However, a year later, Sea Year was restored.
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