Specific policies operate every pirate ship. However, all pirates observed some universal rules. Why did people fear the pirates? What were these policies like? These policies were like nothing we know today. There was no such thing as human rights, especially if the enemy ship dared to resist. Primarily, the pirates were interested in looting the ships. However, facing resistance often resulted in bloodshed and captivity. The female prisoners would be tortured, raped, and sometimes tossed into the sea.
What did Pirates do with their Captives?
On spotting an enemy ship, the pirates raised a black flag, a skull, and crossbones to make themselves known to the occupants. The pirates operated by basic rules. Enemy ships that surrendered immediately were pardoned. A quick, seamless robbery would then ensue. The pirates would rob the ship, take no captives and leave all crew alive. The pirates did not entertain any resistance and fought at the slightest provocation.
Enemy ships that failed to surrender had no chance of being pardoned. New policies applied if the pirates had to fight their way into the ship or board to force surrender. The pirates reckoned that the crew would only fight them by the captain’s orders. When an enemy ship fought the pirates, the pirates would shoot the captain at first sight. The crew witnessed the torture and death of their captain as an example of what would happen to them if they resisted. On rare occasions, the captain would be captured and used as ransom. Sometimes, the pirates would take the captain to an abandoned island.
Inside the enemy ship, the pirates would spare any crew who surrendered. Professional crew such as surgeons, cooks, and map readers would be captured and made to work for the pirates. The pirates sold the rest of the crew to slavery. Sometimes, some were spared and released to spread the word on the fate of those who dared to resist the pirates. Everyone else who resisted the pirates would be tortured and killed.
What Happened to Pirate’s Prisoners?
The pirates operated by general prisoner policies. For ships that surrendered quickly, the pirates did not fight them. The pirates would enter the ship to steal the treasured possessions and goods in transit. There was no need to use their valuable weapons and ammunition. As long as no pirate suffered an injury or death, the captain and crew would be left alive and unharmed. The pirates sought to clarify that enemy ships who surrendered would suffer no harm.
If the enemy ship showed resistance and the pirates had to board and seize their ship forcefully, they would show no mercy to the captain and his crew. The pirates would torture and kill them all. The crew had a slim chance of being spared if any fighting ensued. The pirates would give the enemy ship ample time to surrender. Resistance would frustrate the pirates, who would fight mercilessly, giving the crew no further chance to surrender.
The pirates were particularly angry with the captain, who suffered sure death. The pirates would kill the captain as his crew watched, or he would be left to die on an isolated island. This punishment served as a warning to enemy ships that might try to fight the pirates. The pirates were full of rage and sought revenge which led them to torture their prisoners. The torture routines included beating, cutting, and whipping. The pirates placed lit matches in between the fingers of the prisoners. The pirates watched the matches burning, and the prisoners could not drop them no matter how hard they burned. The Pirates would tie the prisoners around their necks so tightly that their eyes popped out. If the pirates needed some information from the prisoners, they would tie them around the groin, drop them into the sea, lift them and drop them back until they spoke.
Sometimes, the pirates needed to recruit more workers. The pirates retained some of the prisoners to work on their ships or, in some cases, stolen enemy ships. The pirates were particularly interested in the crew who could offer professional services. Therefore, the pirates recruited the skilled crew to join the pirate’s ship and sold off the rest to slavery. The lucky prisoners were set free to spread the word about the pirates.
How did Pirates Treat female Prisoners?
Pirates discouraged the presence of women in their ships. Women who wished to become pirates had to stay disguised as men. These were formidable women like Ann Bonny who sought to enjoy the freedom given to men. The pirates believed that women brought them bad luck. The men would argue and fight over the women losing focus. Therefore, women were not a common sight on pirate ships.
Pirates are known to torture and rape female prisoners. In history, women have reported horrible incidences of sexual assault by pirates. In Bangkok, Thailand, fishermen found two sole female survivors of a pirate attack. The women stated that the pirates had abducted seven of them into their boats and repeatedly raped them. Afterward, the pirates tossed all seven of them overboard to die in the sea. The two women managed to stay afloat till the fishermen found and rescued them.
Many survivors gave a similar narrative revealing the pirate’s notorious habit of raping women prisoners. In a report issued by the New York Times in 1985, pirates abducted and raped 10 Vietnamese women. Reports written by clerks who faced pirates under arrest stated that pirates often raped women. The women would be tortured, distressed, and raped mercilessly.
A pirate attack was one of the most dreaded possibilities by sailors who cruised the sea. Pirates mostly targeted ships carrying goods and valuable treasure. The pirates would prompt the ship to surrender and proceed to loot their cargo. When the pirates faced resistance, they would attack the pilot, crew, and women. These attacks often resulted in massive deaths. Many people suffered a lot at the hands of the pirates. Those who managed to survive painted a clear image of horror. Piracy is illegal, and those caught must face a jail term.