On a 1,000-foot cargo ship in the middle of the ocean, the 19-year-old student felt trapped. Trapped by the crew member she said sexually harassed and groped her, and trapped by the academy that sent her there.
She still had at least 40 more days at sea. If she left the ship before completing “Sea Year,” a mandatory training program at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy where students are placed on commercial or government ships to gain “self-reliance,” she risked derailing her graduation and worried she would be shut out of a career in the shipping industry.
She also knew it would be impossible to stay anonymous if she decided to come forward because she was the only female student on the ship, and returning to campus early would be a dead giveaway. If her predominately male classmates and teachers found out she reported something that could hurt the elite academy’s reputation and put the coveted tradition of Sea Year in jeopardy, she thought to herself, she would be blamed — or not believed — and the rest of her time on campus would be torturous.