A disturbing new report from the Detroit Free Press has revealed what appears to be a long-standing pattern of sexual assault cover-ups by Jamaican resorts, including Sandals, in order to protect their businesses. Multiple resorts are being accused of offering refunds, cash payouts, free vacations, ignoring complaints altogether, and/or manipulating guests into not reporting incidents of assault, rape, and other acts of sexual misconduct.
The State Department has long considered Jamaica a location where American travelers must exercise caution when visiting, and the Free Press found that, per State Department statistics, at least 78 Americans have reported being raped in Jamaica in the last seven years; that’s an average of one person per month. In the wake of their findings, multiple victims have approached the Free Press with their own instances of being paid off or silenced by resorts after attempting to report sexual misconduct.
One such story is that of an 18-year-old au pair who was allegedly drugged, choked, and raped this summer at the Sandals-owned Beaches Negril Resort & Spa. After she filed a report with the police and received a rape kit exam, the resort paid off her host family in exchange for their silence. They signed an NDA; she did not.
Sandals denied any wrongdoing in a statement to the Free Press, stating, “Our policies are clear — all reported incidents of sexual assault and harassment are fully reported to law enforcement, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted by the authorities. This is a core element of our incident response protocol. In no way does Sandals discourage guests or others from reporting allegations of criminal conduct to law enforcement or from cooperating with law enforcement investigations.”
The State Department warning from this past January reads, “Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”
The 18-year-old au pair told the Free Press that a police officer asked her, “Were you not warned about the culture here? […] These things happen here. … Next time, don’t have so many drinks.”
Despite the undercurrent of victim blaming the au pair encountered after the incident, she said, “My silence will not be bought.”
Update — Sandals has sent us the following statement in regard to these allegations:
Since our inception in 1981, we’ve had the distinct privilege of welcoming well over ten million valued guests across our 24 resorts around the Caribbean. We are proud to lead the industry with the highest guest return rate of any resort company in the western hemisphere and know that it has a direct relation to the safe and enjoyable environment that we have provided for over three decades. Our strict security protocols, infrastructure technology and collaboration with international law enforcement and government resources ensure we are among the safest resorts operating in the Caribbean. We follow strict protocols and continue to evolve our policies.
One of the core values of our company is exceeding guest expectations and with that comes operating in full transparency. We are a family operated enterprise that cares deeply about each and every guest we welcome into our resort home. Recent allegations of coverups by our organization are false and are gross misrepresentations of not only the facts but who we are and what we stand for as a leader in the industry.
While no guest should ever experience what these women allege to have happened, the few allegations cited in recent press reports that suggest otherwise do not accurately represent our company or the actions of our team members. While we cannot disclose some information due to pending litigation, we can share the following:
In reference to Ms. Van Rooyen:
At Sandals and Beaches Resorts, we are mindful of the importance of properly addressing claims of reported sexual harassment and assault. We have strict safety protocols at our resorts, where we deploy Closed Circuit TV systems (CCTV) and trained uniformed security personnel to deter criminal conduct. This guest’s allegation against another guest was immediately reported to law enforcement, who investigated the matter, including reviewing the CCTV footage and the results of the toxicology tests. Law enforcement concluded that the guest’s allegation of having been drugged is not sustainable. Our CCTV video footage shows that the events of the reported evening are not what is being portrayed by the guest. Law enforcement has closed its investigation, but this individual has unfortunately embarked on a smear campaign which in our opinion uses misinformation designed to cast Sandals and Beaches Resorts in a false light. Sandals and Beaches Resorts continues to be among the safest resorts in the Caribbean for the more than 750,000 guests who vacation with us yearly.