“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.”
That’s the message one family has for anyone planning a cruise vacation after they said their underage daughter was gang-raped on a Royal Caribbean cruise years ago, according to their lawyer.
K.T. was just 16 when she was on vacation with her grandparents aboard the Oasis of the Seas in December 2015 at the time of the brutal attack, a lawsuit against the cruise line alleges.
“She essentially was at a bar, which obviously she shouldn’t have been allowed to be in. She was given numerous drinks by a group of male passengers, who brought her back to a cabin and gang-raped her,” the family’s lawyer, Michael Winkleman from Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman P.A., told InsideEdition.com. “She was later found passed out in the hallway. Security guards on the ship told her they would kick her off the ship if she did it again.”
According to the lawsuit, K.T. didn’t originally report the attack, but she later came forward in a bid to warn passengers of what Winkleman called a “hidden epidemic of rapes and sexual assaults on a cruise ship.”
“You have a false sense of security, so when people go on cruises, they think they’re in this bubble of safety,” Winkleman said. “Families let their kids drink on ships – they can’t go anywhere, nobody’s driving, they’re all safe, but sexual predators know they can get away with a lot of nasty things.”
The family now hopes they can finally find justice, after a recent ruling by the appellate court that said the 2017 lawsuit, alleging negligence against the cruise line, can proceed after it was initially dismissed by a Miami judge.
The court also noted that there have been 66 reported cases of sexual assault on U.S.-based cruises between 2010 and 2015, with at least 20 reported on a Royal Caribbean ship.
“It’s been several years now. They’re trying to get back to normal. It’s extremely hard on K.T.,” Winkleman said. “She did start college this year, she’s trying to make it work, she’s doing her best [but] how she was before and how she is after is night and day.”
He added: “It’s really a wake-up call to the cruise ship industry, that they need to do something to warn their passengers of this epidemic of rapes and sexual assaults going on on their ships."
Royal Caribbean denies any wrongdoings, according to court papers.
"We aren’t able to comment on pending litigation, but we do take this allegation very seriously. The safety and security of our guests is our top priority," Royal Caribbean's Owen Torres told InsideEdition.com.