Uber Sexual Assault Concerns; Legal Options For Survivors

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A few weeks ago, CNN revealed the results of an investigation into physical and sexual assault involving Uber drivers. They were shocked to learn that over the past four years, at least 130 drivers have had serious (sometimes even sadistic) allegations made against them for assaulting passengers. Thankfully, many have been brought to justice, but not all. Also, this count is not completely conclusive, because many more complaints have been made, but without incident reports. Many of these drivers are currently detained, while others are wanted or at least named in civil suits connected to the abuse.

What is Uber Doing About This?

Another worthy note from all of this is that Uber has decided to alter their original service agreement to better assist individuals that have been assaulted while either driving or riding.

Now, instead of requiring them to accept arbitration in order to save the face of Uber, the company has chosen to put the assault and sexual assault survivors first and remove any blocks for them to handle this issue in whatever way feels best for them.

Uber also says that it will no longer require confidentiality in settlement agreements that are part of sexual assault or harassment lawsuits. Furthermore, Uber intends to publicly post a “safety transparency report.” The company is eager to bring this problem to the forefront and it also seeks to develop a method to address the concerns around sexual assault. Their hope is that other companies will adopt their approach.

First Steps in Case of Sexual Assault

It is no secret that there is potential danger not just when riding in a stranger’s car, but unfortunately, it is also possible in a vast array of situations. Here are some initial steps that are important to know (even though we might all prefer not to think about it):

  1. Immediately after the incident: Avoid urination if possible. Avoid eating, showering, and do not change your clothes. This will preserve any possible evidence. This is understandably one of the most difficult things to do after being violated in such a way, but it can be absolutely crucial.
  2. Go straight to an ER if you are mentally and physically able. Call 911 if you need help. Although a forensic exam can seem even more difficult, know that this step is where the vital evidence is collected, and the delicate procedure is typically conducted by a thoroughly trained, compassionate, and respectful nurse. This exam can truly make the difference between the offender being found guilty or not. Also, if you have any cuts, bruises, etc, photos will be taken by the nurse for evidence as well. If you have no external injuries, an exam can be particularly useful to find potential internal injuries. However, you don’t have to decide now about pressing charges in order to have the exam.

*Please note that, in truth, none of these measures are required at all, and you are certainly free to handle this in whatever way feels best to you. The purpose of this information is simply to help empower you and these are only recommendations.

Other Important Information

  • There may be an advocate, a social worker, or a victim specialist at the hospital to provide support, help you understand your options, and simply be with you.
  • Know that you do not have to make a decision about what you are going to do right away. However, there is a time limit (aka statute of limitations). Check with your state to determine the statute of limitations where you are. It is important to keep in mind that sooner is better due to wounds healing and memories fading over time. Also, it allows the offender to flee further away.
  • Even if the perpetrator’s sexual offense didn’t go all the way to actual rape, the allegations are still worth reporting as soon as possible.
  • If a police officer doesn’t take you seriously, speak to their supervisor and contact the closest sexual assault survivor advocacy organization for support. Much money has gone into training on this issue, so there is no excuse.
  • The cost for the exam should be free to you, but state laws can vary.  

Support for Best Possible Legal Outcome

If you have endured this devastating and unjustifiable act, it is strongly advised that you contact law enforcement as soon as possible and then consult a lawyer before settling on a legal approach.  It is best to have someone on your side that truly cares and understands all of the ins and outs involving sexual assault and the legal system so that you can rest assured that you are taken care of. Another excellent resource is the local supportive sexual assault facility in your area, or you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1(800)-656-HOPE (4673). Remember, you are not alone.