Yacht Rape Victim Awarded Nearly $71 Million In Damages
A woman working as a stewardess for Island Girl Ltd was raped by a deckhand aboard a yacht owned by her employer, the Endless Summer. The 130-foot vessel was docked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the time of the incident, on February 25, 2015. Rafael Dowgwillowicz-Nowicki, the deckhand she accused of raping her, was arrested and charged with four counts of sexual battery. The victim has now been awarded $70.6 million in damages after she pursued a lawsuit against Island Girl Ltd, owned by Michael Poole of Maryland, for requiring her to stay overnight on the vessel with the captain and deckhand and failing to provide her with proper security to ensure her safety.
The woman had claimed Dowgwillowicz-Nowicki entered her cabin drunk and forced her to have sex with him. He threatened to kill her if she didn’t comply, and forced her to engage in intercourse and oral sex. Island Girl reportedly had a policy disabling intoxicated crew members from returning to their duties on the yacht, but no one was on board that night to enforce it.
At the time of his arrest, Dowgwillowicz-Nowicki told police he had had consensual rough sex with the victim, which he believed she enjoyed. He later pleaded guilty to the charges against him, and in December 2016 was sentenced to two years in prison. He was then deported to Poland.
“She was screaming for her life at the top of her lungs,” said her lawyer, Brad Edwards of the Edwards Pottinger law firm in Fort Lauderdale, during court proceedings. He added that his client was not given a walkie-talkie to alert anyone that something was wrong and that onboard communications weren’t working at the time. Tomecek was sleeping in a room two floors from where the incident occurred and had no way of hearing her cries for help. The lawsuit accused the owners of negligence and failing to provide proper security.
“She was raped for over an hour before she escaped and got the captain’s attention,” Edwards said. The attorney further argued Island Girl Ltd should have known that Dowgwillowicz-Nowicki was unfit for his duties “and/or posed a risk of perpetrating unwanted sexual contact” against his client. They would have been aware of this had an appropriate background check been performed as part of the employment process.
The jury awarded the now 23-year-old victim $70,000 in lost wages, $4.2 million in lost future earnings and $66 million for pain and suffering. She was also awarded $290,050 in past and future medical expenses related to the incident. Court documents show the Broward County jury reached its verdict on January 29.
Edwards said his client was pleased with the outcome of the suit but she is likely to remain traumatized for years to come. “She sleeps with the lights on and a machete and baseball bat at her side,” he said. “This is not something she’s going to get over anytime soon.”
The yacht, Endless Summer, is registered in the Marshall Islands. It is now docked at Bahia Mar in Fort Lauderdale.