PART ONE: Maine Maritime Academy leaders address claims of sexual assault, harassment on campus
A website published last fall sharing personal stories of alleged sexual assault and harassment on maritime campuses including Maine Maritime Academy.
CASTINE, Maine (WABI) - A website published last fall sharing personal stories of alleged sexual assault and harassment on maritime campuses has made waves across the country, including at Maine Maritime Academy.
Since then, I have been speaking with current and former students about the website, including the creator and MMA school leaders.
Sexual Assault Cover Up at Maine Maritime Academy.
Maine Maritime Academy Makes Victims Feel So Alone.
These are the titles of two personal accounts of MMA students published by Maritime Legal Aid and Advocacy.
The women who contributed the stories wanted to remain anonymous - like most of the women I’ve spoken with since last October about the culture of MMA throughout the years.
School officials also sat down to talk with me about the work they are doing to dispel myths and change the culture on campus.
“I was working on a ship after not having worked on a ship for five years, and I experienced sexual harassment on the ship,” said Ryan Melogy.
Melogy is the founder of Maritime Legal Aid and Advocacy. The registered nonprofit is providing support to those in similar situations around the country.
“I saw other people sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, and it was a classic hostile work environment. Some really awful things happen, male on male. A person, you know, abusing his power on the ships,” he said.
He’s been working through legal battles for some time now.
“In the middle of this, I started this organization, as I began telling my story on Instagram. People started responding to that, and they started telling their own stories. Pretty quickly, we had dozens of people who’ve been victimized on ships,” he said.
Including two former Maine Maritime Academy students. Both women remained anonymous.
The first story titled ‘Sexual Assault Cover Up at Maine Maritime Academy’ is a detailed account of a student helping her roommate report she had been raped.
Another story published on the website is ‘Maine Maritime Academy Makes Victims Feel So Alone.’ I spoke with this woman who wanted to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation within the maritime industry. She told me it was the first story published on the website that made her want to come forward.
“Once I read this story, I saw there were some similar things that happened in my story,” she said.
She explained that after she was raped at a party, she went into a deep depression which led to an emergency meeting with the MMA psychologist that turned into weekly meetings, which she felt were unhelpful. When asked if she felt like there was anyone she could turn to report her rape, she said, “’Honestly, no. I went to my friend and when she rejected it saying, ‘no one is going to believe you.’ If my friend can’t even stand up for me, what authority figure will?”
“Clearly, it was very difficult for us to see that, that website,” said Janet Aker.
Chief of Staff and Executive Assistant to the President, Aker says she cannot comment directly on allegations of sexual assault and harassment on the Maine Maritime Academy campus, but she can say how it’s impacted the school, and what it’s put in motion.
”We can’t talk about the specifics of the cases, because we honestly don’t know these. One of the cases, it was never more reported. The other case, we don’t know that much about, but what it did do was it really brought it to the forefront for us and helped us understand that we have to do a better job here at Maine Maritime in addressing sexual violence on campus,” she said.
Aker and the other school leaders I spoke with say they want to make every student on campus feel like they can turn to them.
”We have worked hard in the past at it. But has it been a really intense sustained effort? Probably not. And it’s time for us as an institution to commit to making a real long-term lasting sustained effort. And so, acknowledging the past, we’re really moving forward and taking a look at what we do for our students and supporting our students of all types here,” said Aker.
This is the change MMA graduate Kaitlyn Harmon says needs to happen, and it’s why she also shared her personal story with me.
“I don’t want anybody to feel like what 18-year-old me felt like in a therapists office when he’s telling me to take personal responsibility for my rape. Yeah, no one should ever feel like that. That’s ridiculous,” she said.
Kaitlyn Harmon has not contributed to the website but did talk with me in an effort create change.
In part two of my report, she shares her story and why she hopes telling it will help others, as well as more from MMA school leaders about the work they have been doing since last year.
Help is available 24 hours a day through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Copyright 2021 WABI. All rights reserved.