Coast Guard:

Information Needed To Assess the Extent of Sexual Assaults on Ships

RCED-89-59: Published: Dec 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1989.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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Office of Public Affairs
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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information regarding sexual assaults on women in the U.S. merchant marine, specifically: (1) the number of women documented, licensed, and working in the U.S. merchant marine and selected other occupations; (2) the number of shipboard sexual assaults on women reported to government agencies in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska; and (3) whether the Department of Transportation should change laws and regulations relating to such assaults.

GAO found that: (1) 4,670 of the 88,482 individuals listed in the U.S. Coast Guard's database of documented mariners were women, but the database was incomplete and not currently maintained; (2) the Coast Guard's more complete database of licensed officers showed that 4,554 of the 131,934 persons listed were women; (3) at least 1,083 of the 34,550 individuals actively working on U.S. merchant ships in 1985 were women; (4) government officials in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have reported four cases of shipboard sexual assaults since 1981; (5) many in the merchant marine believe that more assaults actually take place than are reported; and (6) the Coast Guard did not have specific requirements for the reporting of shipboard sexual assaults and other offenses which the Sexual Abuse Act of 1986 covered.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The enactment of section 214 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1989, P.L. 101-225, December 12, 1989, made the requirement a U.S. law.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to require that masters of vessels or other responsible officials promptly report to the Coast Guard any complaint of a criminal sexual offense covered by the Sexual Abuse Act of 1986 as soon as possible following its occurrence or report of its occurrence.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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