Sexual Assault in An Uber or Lyft
If you have experienced harm in a ridesharing service, you have rights and options.
What Should You Do If You Have Been a Victim of Sexual Assault in an Rideshare?
Whether you experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or assault, there are several things you can do document the experience, get immediate medical help, and report to the platform and to law enforcement.
The most important thing is that you find immediate physical and mental safety. This could mean calling 911 if you are injured or need immediate emergency services or are fearful of further harm. This could also mean calling a friend, family member, or trusted person to come to you and assist with the immediate aftermath of the experience. You may also choose to go directly to an emergency room at a hospital if you are injured or want the fastest medical care.
After you have immediate safety, it is up to you on what to do next such as seeking medical care or reporting to the platform or law enforcement.
But before we discuss these options, the most important thing you can do at this stage is to document what happened to you, anything you recall about the driver and vehicle, and any other details. If you need assistance in this process, or have any questions about your rights and options, you can contact the sexual assault hotline RAINN or VictimConnect.
The next step is deciding to report to the platform and/or law enforcement. There is no right order in this process – as the ridesharing app may ask if you’ve reported to law enforcement and law enforcement may ask if you’ve reported to the ridesharing app. Many people will choose to report to the app first so they can take that information to law enforcement.
Once law enforcement writes a police report down, you can choose to follow up with the ridesharing app with this information or they may reach out to request it.
This is all a lot to handle — and having to undergo medical exams and reporting to authorities can feel draining and exhausting, especially since you just experienced immense trauma.
This is why it is critically important to take care of yourself during this time. This could mean understanding your workplace rights as a survivor and requesting time off or accommodations, seeking a therapist or healing circle for survivors, or other self care such as going on walks, meditating, and ensuring your health remains your top priority.
If and when you’re ready to file a claim against either Uber or Lyft for sexual assault, we can help guide you towards legal assistance. The right lawyer, most often a personal injury lawyer, can ensure you get the compensation you deserve by filing paperwork promptly, communicating with insurance companies and the ridesharing platform, and advancing your claim in the legal systems.
Depending on the facts of your case, your lawyer can help you maximize compensation for the following:
- Emotional pain and suffering, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Medical bills including therapy
- Difficulty sustaining employment
- Problems with personal relationships
We know that seeking assistance for sexual assault and harassment can be challenging because it requires you to think about the traumatic incident regularly. And you may eventually have to appear in court to face the perpetrator — but we’re here to help you understand your rights, options, and the overall process when this type of harm happens to you.
Hiring a lawyer for sexual assault in a rideshare like Uber may be the right course of action for you because it can help you:
- Make Uber and Lyft safer for future riders. Your lawsuit can set a precedent by creating safer trips for future riders. This is especially true if you join a class action suit.
- Get the compensation you deserve. Recovering from sexual assault and harassment can be expensive. Depending on your case, you may require physical therapy, counseling, or even surgery. Fortunately, you can recover these costs from the perpetrator by suing them.
- Hold the perpetrator accountable. Finally, sexual assault is never your fault. Seeking justice can help hold the perpetrator accountable and further your healing journey.
How to Report Sexual Assault in a Rideshare?
To report an incident with Uber, you can follow these steps:
- Go to the Uber app.
- Tap “Help”.
- Tap “Help with a trip,”.
- Pick the trip during which you were assaulted.
- Tap “Report safety issue” on the “Trip details” page.
- Then, tap “Report a safety incident involving a driver” and write your complaint. You can also tap “call support” at the bottom of the “Help” page to call Uber.
- Go to your Lyft app.
- Tap the menu icon in the top left corner.
- Tap “Ride history.”
- Select the ride during which your sexual assault occurred.
- Tap “Get Help” (on iOS devices) or “Request Review” (on Android devices). This will direct you to a chat with Lyft’s help bot, which will connect you with a representative.
- Select “Report driver behavior.”
- Select “Unsafe or Threatening Behavior.”
Why Are Uber and Lyft Rides Vulnerable to Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault happens during rideshares primarily due to inadequate driver vetting.
Although Uber and Lyft conduct criminal background checks and automatically disqualify applicants convicted of sexual assault, murder, and sexual offenses, background checks can contain errors, inaccuracies, or not allow companies to see offenses that aren’t convictions or are older than 7 years. This means that if someone was arrested for sexual assault or convicted 10 years ago, it may not appear on their background check and they may still be approved for a job.
Beyond this, because most gender-based violence offenders are never arrested or convicted, background checks miss a majority of most violent offenders as they do not have public criminal records.
A 2016 lawsuit indicated that Uber used low-cost background check services that failed to access databases with complete criminal histories. As a result, Uber hired multiple drivers with prior arrest records.
In Lyft’s case, a report from NPR said that victims “called on Lyft to make its service safer by installing cameras inside of all Lyft vehicles, conducting biometric fingerprint scans and background checks for drivers, and eliminating a policy that allows users to order a Lyft ride for someone else.”
To better protect riders from sexual assault, rideshare providers must do more, such as performing reference checks, run adverse social media and media background checks, and require daily re-identification and continuous monitoring background checks that constantly scan criminal and civil court filings.
Uber and Lyft Sexual Assault Statistics
According to Uber’s second US Safety Report, they reported the following statistics for the years 2019-2020:
- 514 reports involving non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part
- 1,546 reports involving non-consensual touching of a sexual body part
- 338 reports involving non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part
- 202 reports involving attempted non-consensual sexual penetration
- 247 reports involving non-consensual sexual penetration
According to Lyft’s Community Safety report, they documented the following safety incidents reported on the Lyft platform in the United States from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019:
- 293 reports of non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part
- 1,041 reports of non-consensual touching of a sexual body part
- 203 reports of non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part
- 114 reports of attempted non-consensual sexual penetration
- 156 reports of non-consensual sexual penetration
Examples of sexual assault that can happen in an Uber or Lyft include:
- Non-consensual sexual penetration
- Attempted non-consensual sexual penetration
- Non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part
- Non-consensual touching of a sexual body part
- Non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part
- Non-consensual viewing of images or videos
- Inappropriate sexual comments or questions
Tips to Help Stay Safe in a Lyft or Uber
While ridesharing providers’ community guidelines have helped to curb instances of sexual assault, individuals using these services are still at risk.
You aren’t only at risk of experiencing sexual assault, abuse, or harassment, drivers and passengers may experience other forms of uncomfortable, dangerous, of violent interactions. These interactions may include dangerous driving such as speeding or aggressive driving, drunkenness or drug usage by riders or passengers, or invasive questions or creepy or uncomfortable behavior. You can report all of these to the ridesharing platform and both your and their response may be dependent on the severity of what happened.
We recommend always using caution and being alert when using any ridesharing service. This is especially true if you are in a new location, in a rural area, or using the service late at night or early in the morning.
Here are some tips for staying safe in an Uber or Lyft:
Uber and Lyft Community Guidelines
Uber has developed community guidelines to help ensure the safety of its passengers. Everyone who uses Uber’s platform — drivers, riders, Uber Eats users, delivery people, businesses, or merchants — must follow these guidelines. Note, however, that Uber does not enforce these guidelines.
Here’s a brief rundown of Uber’s community guidelines:
Treat everyone with respect: Uber has created policies and standards on sexual misconduct and assault. To comply with these standards, drivers and passengers should avoid the following:
- Commenting on someone’s appearance
- Asking whether someone is single
- Engaging in sexual misconduct and assault without the explicit consent of the other person
- Making explicit gestures or comments
- Saying lewd things
- Making explicit gestures
Help protect each other: Uber puts some of the onus on users to keep each other safe, which is why Uber prohibits account sharing. To use Uber apps, users must create and maintain their own accounts. If a user is a delivery person, they must complete all parts of the delivery themselves. Additionally, adults can’t request a delivery or ride for someone under the age of 18 who is not accompanied by the account holder or another adult.
Lyft has implemented safety guidelines and policies, including a policy against sexual assault, misconduct, and harassment.
This policy defines improper sexual behavior and encourages users to promptly report all incidents of potential sexual misconduct, assault, and harassment to Lyft. If Lyft believes an allegation is credible, it will take action, including permanently removing a user’s access to drive or ride with Lyft.
Other Lyft policies, features, and partnerships for protecting drivers and riders include:
- Initial and annual background checks
- Continuous driving record and criminal monitoring
- Community safety education created in consultation with Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
- In-app safety features that allow drivers and riders to share their location with friends and family, connect directly with Lyft support, and receive emergency assistance
- A 24/7 safety team so drivers and riders can contact a live person if they feel unsafe or have concerns
Despite these guidelines, Lyft received more than 4,000 reports of sexual assault from users of the platform from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2019.