LONG ISLAND - Officials from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy are looking into a report on social media by a female cadet who claimed she was sexually assaulted during her year of training at sea.
Ryan Melogy founded Maritime Legal Aid and Advocacy - a website and nonprofit where victims of shipboard harassment can come forward anonymously. The Merchant Marine Academy graduate was a victim of sexual assault himself while on a ship back in 2015. Since then he’s been trying to seek justice for himself and others.
"When you’re in that environment, you’re living in a military dictatorship, you’re living under incredibly strict rules and you’re living in a culture of fear," he said.
Melogy’s Instagram page features the latest victim to speak out. The member of the Class of 2022 at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy disclosed she was 19 when she was sexually assaulted during her Sea Year by an older engineer on a commercial vessel.
"It has the highest incidence of any sexual assault, sexual harassment probably of any service academy, probably of any school in the country," Melogy said.
This latest incident is far from isolated - the woman mentioned above claims she hasn’t spoken to a single one of her female classmates who haven’t been sexually harassed, assaulted, or degraded at some point during their time at the Academy or during Sea Year.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand temporarily suspended the program back in 2016 and announced legislation to make it easier for cadets to come forward if they are victims of sexual harassment or assault. She calls continued incidents outrageous and believes there needs to be better oversight and accountability.
"To have a 19-year-old woman be raped by someone 30-40 years her senior is disgusting," she said. "I think we have to convict rapists send them to jail and show them rape isn’t tolerated by convictions."
In a statement a spokesperson for the Maritime Administration says they have zero tolerance for sexual assault and harassment, they stand ready to provide support to survivors and they’re working to determine the appropriate steps required to increase and ensure the safety of students at the Academy.