Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

Rover Sexual Assault

Increasingly, pet sitters and dog walkers using Rover to find work are being targeted by bad actors who sexually harass, assault, or abuse them. They deserve to know their legal rights and options.

Key Takeaways

  • Increasingly, dog walkers and pet sitters on Rover are being sexually assaulted and harassed by users who are using the design of the app to specifically target young women.
  • Many of these survivors have come forward and filed complaints against Rover and the individuals who caused harm in both civil and criminal court.
  • If you or someone you know was sexually harassed or assaulted while using Rover, you have legal rights and options and we’re here to help however we can.

Rover is one of the largest pet care platforms in the world. It’s transformed how people book and provide pet care services, but its convenience comes at a cost. Numerous pet sitters and dog walkers have been the victims of sexual violence while providing services. The reported incidents include groping, undisclosed recordings, and sexual assaults.

If you offered or received pet care services through Rover and experienced any form of sexual violence, you may be eligible to seek justice and compensation by filing a civil lawsuit. Helping Survivors can connect you with an experienced sexual assault attorney who can help you hold Rover accountable for its failure to provide a safe working environment.

What Is Rover?

Rover is an online marketplace that connects pet owners with local pet care providers, including dog walkers, pet sitters, and in-home daycare providers. It was founded in 2011 in Seattle, Washington, by Greg Gottesman, Aaron Easterly, and Philip Kimmey. It took off in the mid-2010s after receiving tens of millions in funding, followed by another $155 million in 2018. Blackstone Inc. acquired the company for $2.3 billion in November 2023.

Over two million pet owners have booked through Rover. Its network of providers spans 10 countries and over 24,000 neighborhoods worldwide. The pet care providers are independent contractors who set their own rates and schedules.

Rover connects providers with potential clients and processes payments. It also provides insurance coverage in case anything goes wrong.

This business model makes Rover an appealing income source for people who need a flexible schedule. As a result, the majority of its dog walkers and pet sitters are young people, a significant number of whom are women.

Last Date Modified
March 28, 2024
Content Reviewed By:

Kathryn Kosmides
Managing Director | Helping Survivors

Sexual Assault and Abuse Reports Against Rover

Since its launch, Rover has faced numerous allegations of sexual abuse and assault occurring through its platform. In most of these cases, the perpetrators are clients who prey on pet care providers under the guise of soliciting their services.

These perpetrators often use Rover as a dating app due to its design. Dog walkers do not apply for jobs through Rover. Instead, users select the individuals they want from a list of profiles with prominent photos. This setup makes it easy for perpetrators to select their victims and manipulate them into accepting jobs that put their safety at risk.

Rover claims to perform background checks on all of its pet care providers. However, the same is not true for its clients. Rover users seeking pet care undergo no identity verifications or background checks, meaning anyone—even people with violent sexual histories—can create a profile on the platform. It also means perpetrators can simply create new profiles even after Rover has banned them from the app for previous offenses.

Adding insult to injury, Rover has allegedly failed to respond to many reports of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. Numerous victims say they have reported their experiences to Rover, only to receive a generic response or none at all.

Rover Sexual Abuse Allegations as Reported in the Media

The media has reported on sexual abuse allegations involving Rover since at least 2018. Despite at least six years of consistent media attention to this issue, sexual assault allegations involving Rover continue to make headlines and flood social media. These cases likely represent only a fraction of the incidents that have occurred through the Rover app:

  • Philadelphia Football Coach Accused by Six Women, Victims Sue Rover
    In 2023, six women aged 22 to 26 filed sexual misconduct lawsuits against Rover and Antoine Smith, a former Temple University football coach. According to the allegations, Smith placed hidden cameras around his home where the women would shower and sleep while watching his dog overnight. The women also allege that Rover failed to adequately respond to complaints about Smith.
  • Mount Vernon Man Lured Teen to His Home via Rover
    In 2018, a teenage girl accused felon Charles Johnson of attempted sex abuse after he used Rover to lure her into his home on the pretense of seeking dog-sitting services. Once the girl arrived at his home, Johnson allegedly trapped her behind a locker door, exposed himself to her, and requested sexual favors from her. He then forcibly groped her and continued to demand oral sex before she escaped.
  • Pet Sitter Sexually Harassed by Multiple Rover Clients
    In 2019, another Rover sitter posted on Reddit about the sexual harassment they experienced through the platform. The sitter allegedly woke up at midnight to a phone call from a potential client who got their contact information through Rover. The client told the sitter, “I hope to be the best possible man you would ever have in your life.” The sitter had several other experiences of this type, but the Rover app did not allow them to block the perpetrators. Their reports to the platform also resulted in minimal action from Rover.
  • Rover Sitter Raped by Rover Client
    In 2022, a Rover dog walker posted on Reddit about their experience of being raped by a client. According to the dog walker’s account, they became friendly with the client after walking his dogs several times. The client eventually invited the dog walker to his house one night to hang out, where consensual kissing turned into rape. The dog walker reported the client to Rover, but Rover failed to remove the client from the platform.

What You Can Do If You Experience Sexual Abuse or Harassment on Rover

Sexual abuse and harassment on Rover appears to be a growing problem, with social media platforms and online forums full of stories from pet sitters who have experienced these types of incidents:

If Someone From Rover Sexually Harasses or Sexually Assaults You

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” Harassment encompasses a wide range of behaviors that may occur between a Rover client and service provider, such as the following:

  • Making unwelcome sexual advances
  • Inappropriate discussion of sexual fantasies 
  • Pressuring someone to engage in sexual behavior
  • Non-consensual exposure of one’s genitalia
  • Touching someone in a sexually suggestive manner
  • Secretly recording someone in a private space while they are undressing or engaging in sexual activity

Because Rover’s pet care services often occur in the client’s home, Rover allows perpetrators to lure victims into private, isolated locations. This makes it easier for them to commit these types of acts.

Here are some key steps to take if someone has sexually harassed or assaulted you through Rover:

1. Seek Medical Attention

Even if you have no apparent physical injuries, visiting a health care professional is crucial. Some forms of sexual assault can result in internal injuries or STDs. Be sure to follow all recommended testing and treatment, and keep all medical records and receipts. You do not have ot have a rape kit (also known as a sexual assault forensic exam) performed if you do not want to. You can also visit your regular doctor or an urgent care if you are not in need of immediate medical attention. Visiting a doctor after experience abuse can also help create a paper trail of your experience should you pursue your legal options.

2. Document the Incident

Screenshot or save any communications relevant to the incident, including any sexually harassing texts, voicemails, or social media messages. Write down what happened while your memory is fresh, and include as many details as possible, such as the date, time, location, what you remember about the perpetrator, and any witnesses present.

3. Report to the Platform

Although Rover has a history of responding poorly to sexual harassment reports, doing so creates a paper trail. Such documentation could help prove Rover's negligence if it fails to take appropriate action. To make a sexual harassment report with the Rover dog walking app, visit Rover's support page, select "Log in to get help" at the top of the page, then select "Get help" after logging in to your account. Select "Safety issue" from the list of problems, then type in a detailed explanation of the incident and attach any relevant evidence. You may also email your report to trust@rover.com.

4. Consider Reporting the Incident to Law Enforcement

While many states' penal codes don't specifically mention sexual harassment, they may categorize the perpetrator's behavior as sexual assault, groping, indecent exposure, stalking, or another relevant crime. By filing a police report, you are not filing charges against the perpetrator. Only the state prosecutor can press charges. Your report would simply alert law enforcement to investigate the incident. Filing a report with law enforcement is not just about criminal justice—it also helps with any other means to stop the perpetrator, such as banning them from the platform or filing a lawsuit. A police report can create a paper trail vital to helping you seek justice and compensation while preventing future harm. However, the decision to report the incident to the police report is entirely up to you. However, if you are looking to file a civil lawsuit against Rover, you may need to file a police report.

5. Contact a Lawyer Experienced in Rover Sexual Abuse and Harassment Cases

You have the option to pursue legal action over your harassment or abuse as a pet sitter on Rover. A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options, such as filing a civil lawsuit. A lawyer with experience representing Rover sexual assault victims can provide the support and resources you need to move forward. Helping Survivors can connect you with law firms experienced in these types of cases.

Rights and Options for Individuals Victimized as Rover Service Providers

If you have experienced sexual harassment or abuse as a Rover dog walker or pet sitter, you do not need to suffer in silence. You have the following rights and options available to you that can empower you and pursue justice for the harm you’ve suffered:

  • You have a right to file a report with law enforcement.
  • You have a right to medical attention, including a free sexual assault forensic exam if necessary and desired.
  • You have a right to report the perpetrator to Rover.
  • You have the right to file a civil lawsuit and seek compensation from those who have harmed you or enabled the harm.
  • You have a right to a workplace free from sexual harassment, abuse, and other harms. Rover categorizes their dog walkers as independent contractors exempt from federal employment laws and workers’ compensation benefits. However, in certain states such as Louisiana or New York, 1099 contractors may still be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the company and any other at-fault party for their negligence.

If you have experienced sexual harassment or abuse as a dog walker on Rover, you may have the opportunity to seek compensation. Helping Survivors can help you understand your legal rights and options while providing support and resources to aid your recovery. Contact us today.

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