Episode 48 continues the conversation around Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment (SASH) by highlighting the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN).

ISWAN’s mission is to promote and support the welfare of seafarers and their families all over the world. In addition to operating a 24-hour helpline as a direct service for seafarers, the network also runs a number of additional projects and campaigns in support of seafarers’ welfare. Caitlin Vaugh, who was serving as the project manager at ISWAN at the time of this recording, joined Ally Cedeno and Fionna Boyle in discussing global support for seafarers and their families via ISWAN’s free, 24-hour, multilingual hotline called ‘SeafarerHelp.’ 

The newest addition to the ISWAN network of resources and campaigns is ‘YachtCrew’ Help, a 24-hour support for professional yacht crew worldwide including help for sexual assault, substance misuse, and employment concerns. Additionally, ISWAN has multiple ongoing lines of effort including support for seafarers and their families affected by piracy such as emergency hardship funds, Women Seafarers’ Health and Welfare joint initiative looking at the health of women seafarers and where it can be improved, Seafarers’ Mental Health and Wellbeing training, International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) Programme establishing welfare boards worldwide, Seafarers’ Health Information Programme (SHIP) providing shipping companies and seafarers information on staying healthy onboard, Social Interaction Matters (SIM) improving social interaction onboard, and ISWAN Regional Programme providing humanitarian support to seafarers and their families in South East Asia, South Asia, and West and Central Africa. 

Live anonymous chat is the most popular ‘SeafarerHelp’ contact option; however, phone, email, Facebook, and WhatsApp, are all available for communication with ISWAN, as well. Seafarers contact ISWAN for support, but also general details for things like information and location of a local Seafarer center, or more serious topics like mental health, especially during COVID-19. In 2020, ISWAN received three times the number of calls for help during the global pandemic. 

Caitlin highlights the hotline’s ability to focus on seafarer’s who just need to talk through a problem and are looking to have someone who is impartial, keeps the problem confidential, and who speaks their own language. The hotline provides family assistance, assistance with wages not paid, bullying, and harassment. ISWAN is finding that the seafarer may identify solutions just by talking through it with the hotline staff who can provide not only exceptional listening, but tangible take-aways and solutions. 

ISWAN’s ‘SeafererHelp’ and ‘YachtCrew Help’ hotline staff provides emotional support, listening skills and suicide risk assessment; trained professionals to help survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and bullying and harassment. Psychologists are also available for referral to the seafarer to provide more in-depth support. If cases are complex-especially now with COVID-19 where there may be restriction in movement and repatriation-various different parties may need to be contacted. ISWAN offers additional support to the seafarer by aiding in logistical coordination with the local Embassy, Consulate, Host Nation, Flag State, Shipping Company, and Union representation. ISWAN completes coordination of care with follow-up to ensure that the seafarer is receiving the help they need on or off the vessel.

With the world-wide crew change crisis and possible gangway-up order enforced, Caitlin outlines how ISWAN assists the seafarers if they are not able to be repatriated off the vessel, but remain in a toxic environment-a joint work and living dynamic. The network is focused not only on helping the seafarer while onboard, but also focused on working with all available agencies to repatriate the seafarer for total care. 

Listen below, and join Women Offshore in spreading the word that ISWAN exists and all of the help it provides to those impacted by sexual assault and sexual harassment and beyond. Pass the word today! 

If you or someone you know experienced a sexual assault or sexual harassment, you are not alone.

We encourage you to report such matters to your employer, academy, school, or union as per their guidelines. For example, this may be your HR partner, captain, or designated person ashore. It can be hard to speak up, but it is a necessary step in seeking help and breaking the cycle of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The following is a list of resources to also utilize.

    1. RAINN-Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: https://www.rainn.org/about-sexual-assault , 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)
    2. National Sexual Violence Resource Center: https://www.nsvrc.org/
    3. Victim Connect: Confidential Referrals for Crime Victims: https://victimconnect.org/learn/types-of-crime/sexual-assault/, 1-855-484-2846
    4. SeafarerHelp: https://www.seafarerhelp.org dial +44 20 7323 2737; email [email protected]
    5. YachtCrew Help: https://www.yachtcrewhelp.org dial +44 20 3713 7273; email [email protected]
    6. Safer Waves: https://saferwaves.org/
    7. SeaCode: https://www.seacode.org/resources

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Women Offshore

About The Author: Women Offshore

The Women Offshore Foundation is an online organization and resource center for a diverse workforce on the water. Its mission is to propel women into meaningful careers through access to a worldwide community and professional development resources, while raising awareness amongst industry leaders and decision makers about issues affecting women on the water. Contact Women Offshore today: [email protected].

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