Over a year after a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy midshipman came forward about how she was raped by her supervisor while training on board a U.S.-flagged ship at sea, the U.S. Coast Guard is targeting the alleged perpetrator’s ability to work on commercial vessels.
CNN reported today that administrative charges have been filed against mariner Edgar Sison for alleged alcohol violations related to the rape accusations. The Coast Guard is seeking to suspend Sison’s government-issued Merchant Mariner Credential for one year, pending a decision from the Department of Justice on possible criminal charges.
The former midshipman, Hope Hicks, initially shared in story in an anonymous blog post alleging she was given alcohol and raped by a superior officer while serving as an engine cadet aboard a Maersk Line, Limited (MLL) vessel during her Sea Year training. She became known in the industry as “Midshipman-X” before eventually revealing her identity through a now-settled civil lawsuit against MLL, a subsidiary of Danish shipping giant Maersk.
Her story sparked a “me too” movement in the maritime industry, encouraging others—both men and women— to come forward with their own stories of sexual assault and harassment at sea.
According to the CNN report, the Coast Guard’s criminal investigation into Hicks’ allegation was handed to the Justice Department in early 2022, but so far no prosecution decision has been made. Typically, the Coast Guard waits for the resolution of a criminal case before taking administrative actions, so the alcohol violation charge allows them to pursue Sison’s credential without compromising the criminal investigation, CNN said in its report.
Another recent CNN report highlighted Hicks’ long wait for Coast Guard action, revealing the agency’s failure to prevent and punish sexual assault for decades. The report found that over the past decade, the Coast Guard had not revoked a single credential for shipboard sexual misconduct, while mariners who failed drug tests for offenses such as marijuana or CBD oil were stripped of their credentials, thereby preventing them from working on commercial ships.
Hicks and other mariners criticize the Coast Guard for not acting more quickly to investigate and remove potential predators from ships. Hicks expressed to CNN relief that something is finally being done, but believes it should have happened sooner.
The Coast Guard’s complaint against Sison alleges that he violated company policy by possessing and consuming alcohol. CNN said Sison and his attorney have not commented on the complaint or the investigation.
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