I have for many years had to live in the heads of plaintiff’s lawyers, so the following thoughts come reflexively to me. They are based not on the criminal law aspect of the crime, but on the civil law aspect; the lawsuit which is inevitable after the crime:
Plaintiff lawyers are out for restitution for their client. They like the easy money and the cash cow: the employer. But if they feel the employer is too hard a nut to crack—it the employer followed all the rules to protect its employees, took all the precautions—then the plaintiff’s lawyer is going to go for an easier, though less lucrative, source of cash. An easier defendant to provide restitution.
In a sex crime aboard a union ship both the victim and the perpetrator are union members. The witnesses are all union members. The perpetrator was vetted for employment by the union, not by the employer. The workplace regulations—watches, work hours, required living quarters—are in a great degree determined by the union. Union rules determine liberty in port, and restrict the reasons a crew member can be fired.
In fact, a plaintiff’s lawyer could make a reasonable case that the union is as much or more responsible for the workplace conditions aboard ship that allowed the crime to happen, than the employer.
The plaintiff’s lawyer could reasonably argue that this makes the union as culpable or more than the employer in the malfeasance that led to the crime.
A plaintiffs lawyer wouldn’t try this if tack if there was chink in the employer’s armor of policy and procedure. The employer is the cash cow, and a civil case in the end is about money. However, if the employer is unassailable, then the plaintiff’s lawyer could easily look at the union.
Unions don’t have big revenue streams. They do have litigation/harassment insurance, which is something. The one big asset they do have is the pension fund.
I don’t know what case-law is about pension funds being used by unions to pay off lawsuits. If there was no definitive case-law against it, a plaintiff’s lawyer could reasonably make a case that the plaintiff would not be able to work for the union after the lawsuit, because of fear of retaliation etc.
Therefore the plaintiff could reasonably ask the court for an amount equal to a lifetime of wages and pension benefits not earned (the typical amount requested from the employer) to be paid by the union to the defendant.
Has this happened before? Society is changing rapidly. Plaintiff’s lawyers are a smart set, and they are always upping their game.