Photo: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

CNN Investigation: Culture of fear at Merchant Marine Academy silences students

Mike Schuler
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February 16, 2022

CNN on Wednesday published an investigative report Wednesday alleging that a “culture of fear” at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York has silenced victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH).

The report provides an in-depth look at how reports of sexual misconduct are handled by the federal service academy and comes following an explosive blog post, written by an anonymous victim and published last year by a maritime SASH whistleblower website, alleging she was sexually assaulted by a supervisor while onboard Maersk Line, Limited ship during her Sea Year training back in 2019.

Maersk Line, Limited has suspended five employees as it conducts an internal investigation of the incident, in addition to Department of Transportation (DOT), Maritime Administration (MARAD), and USMMA inquiries into the reported incident and others.

The blog post also prompted others to come forward with their own stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment while attending USMMA, as well as other state maritime academies and also elsewhere within the maritime industry.

In the wake of the recent revelations, USMMA’s Sea Year training program was temporality paused before being reinstated in December with new policies and procedures in place to protect Midshipmen.

CNN also spoke to another anonymous victim, whose story had not yet been shared publicly, revealing that she too was sexually harassed and groped during her Sea Year training back in 2016, but was forced to stay silent over fear of jeopardizing her education and career within the industry.

It was around that same time that former DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx ordered the infamous “Sea Year Stand Down” in response to reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault, hazing, bullying, coercion, and retaliation involving cadets during their time at sea.

CNN also interviewed Denise Krepp, former chief counsel for MARAD, Lucinda Lessley, the acting administrator of the Maritime Administration, and Stephanie Vincent-Sheldon, a former Midshipman who had her sexual assault case at USMMA criminally prosecuted back in 1997.

The full article can be read on

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