'I feel like he targeted her:' Teen sexually assaulted on Jacksonville-based Carnival ship, mom says

EXCEL DOCUMENT: Cruise ship crime stats in 2017

A Florida mom is speaking out after she says her 18-year-old daughter with special needs was sexually assaulted on a Carnival cruise ship.

The woman says her daughter left on a birthday cruise with her grandmother on Jacksonville-based Elation on Saturday.

She said it was a girls' trip, and her daughter, who has the mental capacity of a 13-year-old, was excited.

"This was really her first time experiencing a little freedom, you know?" the woman, who we're not identifying to protect her daughter's identity, said.

According to a statement from Carnival Cruise Line, staff was notified of an alleged act of misconduct onboard the ship Tuesday evening.

"She was in the hot tub with a bunch of kids and she said the gentleman came and got in the hot tub," the mom told Action News Jax. "I honestly believe he scouted my daughter. He waited for that moment."

She said the man started a conversation with her daughter before sexually attacking her, leaving scratches and marks on her body.

Carnival said an adult male passenger was detained onboard. The FBI and United States Coast Guard are investigating.

"Why would somebody do that?" she said. "If he did it once, he's probably done it before. You know? So why, why don’t they run background checks on people?"

Action News Jax researched how many sexual assaults have been reported on Carnival and other major cruise lines in the past year.

Carnival had 35 reported sexual attacks in 2017 while Royal Caribbean had 17, and Norwegian had 15.

Carnival said it served more than 5 million passengers on 1,800 voyages of Carnival Ships in 2017.

We've requested information on number of passengers on other major cruise lines and are waiting for the numbers.

"It’s a shame that we guard her so much at home and then when they do go out to have a good time, this is what happens," the Florida mom said of the alleged attack on her daughter.

She said she can't wait to see her when the ship returns to Jacksonville Thursday morning.

"I just want her to move past this and I don't want it to jade her perspective on life," she said. "I'm just going to hug her and tell her it's OK, and that it's going to be OK and that it's not her fault."

Full statement from Carnival:

"On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 27, an adult female guest notified our security team of an alleged act of misconduct by an adult male guest onboard Carnival Elation.  All appropriate law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, were notified immediately according to our security protocols.  The male guest is being detained onboard.
The female guest was offered assistance by the ship's medical team and our Care Team; and we are continuing to offer support.
The ship is on a five-day cruise to the Bahamas that departed on Feb. 24 from Jacksonville and is scheduled to return tomorrow."

Full statement from the FBI:

"As is standard, the FBI Jacksonville Division has been advised of a potential incident on the high seas, and we are working with our law enforcement and government agency partners to obtain additional information.  The investigation is ongoing, and no details can be confirmed at this time."