Uber drivers experienced sexual assault almost as often as riders, Uber’s safety study shows

The numbers are bleak in Uber’s first safety report in the U.S.

Released Thursday, the ride-hailing app’s voluntary report looked at two years’ of Uber data concerning traffic fatalities, physical assault, and sexual assault that occurred across 2.3 billion U.S.-based rides from 2017 through 2018. 

In the report, Uber broke down sexual assault into five categories, including non-consensual sexual penetration, or rape. 

All types of sexual assault were included in the report — like attempted rape and non-consensual touching of a sexual body part. 

The document listed 229 rapes in 2017 and 235 in 2018. Across both years, 31 drivers reported rapes, alongside 429 riders, or 8 and 92 percent of rapes reported, respectively. 

There was a total of 2,936 sexual assault reports in 2017, and 3,045 in 2018. Of those, 45 percent were drivers reporting riders as the attackers. 

In other words, while drivers made up a smaller percentage of those reporting rapes, they made nearly half of all reports in all categories of assault.

Not to diminish the alarmingly high number of rider rape reports, Uber noted, “Drivers have a right to have their experiences told, and we have a responsibility to stand with them.” 

As to gender, sexual violence research shows that women are as many as 94 percent of rape survivors. Uber said female-identifying people made 89 percent of the rape reports. Uber didn’t break down survivors’ gender in conjunction with whether the report was made by a driver or a rider.

Uber also acknowledged that sexual assault is usually under-reported, and the effect that has on the quality of data. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center CEO cited a Department of Justice study that found only 25 percent of sexual assaults or rape were reported to police.

So what’s Uber doing with all this data? 

On top of safety features already in the app — like a 911 button and RideCheck if your car stays in one spot for too long — and other features coming to more users soon, like texting 911, Uber has an ambitious to-do list. 

Next year all Uber drivers have to complete a sexual misconduct education course through RAINN, the organization behind the National Assault Hotline. Competing ride-share company Lyft requires all its drivers to complete a RAINN safety course by Dec. 15. 

Uber also says it’s committed to sharing information about drivers and riders deactivated on its platform with other ride-sharing apps, and is setting up a Survivor Support Hotline. 

Uber’s safety report comes the day after a lawsuit was filed in San Francisco on behalf of 21 women who said they were sexually assaulted or raped in a Lyft ride. Uber expects more survivors to speak up before its next report comes out in two years. 

With more transparency and support available, survivors are more inclined to report incidents to authorities.

Within Uber’s report the ride-share company acknowledged its role in talking candidly about safety while using its platform. While it may come off as somewhat disingenuous, considering this hasn’t always been its approach, many sexual violence prevention organizations applauded Uber for voluntarily coming out with its thorough, 84-page report. 

A RAINN statement encouraged other institutions to release more data about sexual violence. “We’d love to see organizations in every industry, including educational institutions, make a similar effort to track and analyze sexual misconduct within their communities,” the statement read.

If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org.

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