A ride-sharing service is dependent on a stranger getting into another stranger’s car. This brings risks that might not be present when taking a taxi, bus, or subway.

In 2019, Uber revealed that they had received 3,045 reports of sexual assault over the past two years. Later that same year, Uber agreed to pay a $9 million settlement in California for failure to provide information about sexual assault complaints made over two years by customers and drivers.

Both Uber and Lyft have received a fair amount of criticism over complaints that they don’t do enough to protect riders and drivers from sexual abuse. The companies deny liability in these cases, maintaining that their drivers are not employees. These gig companies supported a $200 million ballot measure that would permanently classify their drivers as independent contractors in California.

Although Lyft and Uber denounce sexual abuse in any form, critics say they do not do enough to protect passengers and drivers. Many lawsuits filed by victims of sexual assault are never prosecuted because of a lack of evidence. This leads detractors to insist that cameras be installed in every car used for ride-sharing activities.

Steps to Take If You've Been Sexually Assaulted by an Uber or Lyft Driver

If you have been sexually assaulted while riding as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, there are certain steps you should take to ensure your safety and healing. These steps will also help you protect your right to fair and just compensation for the assault.

Call the Police and File a Report

The first thing you should do after any kind of unwanted sexual activity is call the police. The report they make will be official documentation of the incident. This may mean having to recount things that are hard to talk about, but a report taken by law enforcement will be foundational if you choose to pursue a lawsuit against the rideshare company.

uber and lyft safety

Receive Medical Care

Sexual assault is often physically traumatic. You should seek medical care to treat any injuries and to identify any unobservable injuries. Sometimes a doctor will recommend the use of a “rape kit.” This is simply a forensic medical exam designed to collect evidence that can be used to identify the perpetrator.

Consider Getting a SART or SANE Exam

If you are receiving medical care or thinking about reporting the crime after a recent sexual assault, you may hear the terms SART or SANE.

A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a local group of people who coordinate responses to victims of rape or other sexual assault. This team will consist of:

  • Medical personnel
  • Victim advocates
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Prosecutors
  • Judges
  • Any others desiring to help victims

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is a specially trained registered nurse. They can give complete medical attention to a sexual assault victim, conduct a forensic exam, and provide expert testimony if it is needed in the future. These resources can help you receive necessary medical attention and provide crucial evidence for your claim. Contact your local crisis center to find out where they are available near you.

Take Note of All the Details You Can Remember

As soon as you feel able, you should write down notes of any detail you can remember about your assault. This may trigger strong emotions, but it can be an important step for your healing. It is also another means of documenting the incident.

Report the Assault to Uber or Lyft

If you were involved in a sexual assault as an Uber or Lyft driver or passenger, you should let the rideshare company know immediately. For Uber, you can report sexual assault online. And for Lyft, you can report the incident through the Lyft app or by logging into your account online.

Get Support

It may be difficult to open up about sexual violence with friends and family. You may feel a sense of shame or guilt that makes it even harder to say what happened. It’s important to remember that telling your story doesn’t mean you have to share every detail. Receiving love and emotional support from family and friends can provide strength and encouragement for you as you heal. Also, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk to a trained professional.

What is sexual assault?

The CDC defines sexual assault as “a sexual act that is committed or attempted by another person without freely given consent of the victim or against someone who is unable to consent or refuse.” Sexual assault often involves physical force, but force can also be applied through threatening or manipulative words, blackmail, or any kind of coercion. Sexual assault can include:

  • Attempted rape
  • Rape where the victim’s body was penetrated
  • Rape where the victim was forced to penetrate someone else’s body
  • Unwelcome sexual touching or contact
  • Other nonconsensual sex acts, such as oral sex

According to CDC data, sexual violence happens to millions each year in the United States. Data reveals that in the US:

  • 1 in 3 women experience unwanted sexual violence in their lifetime
  • 1 in 4 men experience unwanted sexual violence in their lifetime
  • 1 in 5 women have suffered attempted or completed rape
  • 1 in 14 men have been forced to penetrate someone (attempted or completed)

As staggering as these numbers are, researchers believe that many cases also go unreported. They believe this may be the result of shame, embarrassment, or fear on the part of the victim. They may also have been threatened with harm or believe no one will help them.

How many sexual assault cases have there been against Uber?

Uber published a safety report in 2019. This report included information and statistics about motor vehicle fatalities, fatal physical assaults, and sexual assaults where Uber drivers were involved. According to data from 2017 and 2018:

Unwanted kissing of a non-sexual body part was reported in about 1 in every 2,000,000 completed trips

Non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part was reported in about 1 in every 3,000,000 completed trips
Attempted sexual penetration was reported in about 1 in every 4,000,000 completed trips
Non-consensual touching was reported in about 1 in every 800,000 trips
Non-consensual penetration (rape) was reported in about 1 in every 5,000,000 completed trips

The report reveals that across all categories of sexual violence, riders made up 45% of the accused parties. Uber also states that, according to their preliminary data for 2019, there was a 17-20% decrease in the number of sexual assault reports from 2018.

How many cases of sexual assault have there been against Lyft?

Lyft also released a safety report that includes data for the years 2017 through 2019. The data for acts of sexual violence in Lyfts are reported separately for each year. It appears to show that incidents of reported sexual assault are declining. In 2019, Lyft states:

  • Unwanted kissing of a non-sexual body part was reported 293 times, representing 0.00004% of completed trips
  • Non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part was reported 203 times, or in 0.00003% of completed trips
  • Attempted non-consensual sexual penetration was reported 114 times, or in 0.00001% of completed trips
  • Unwanted touching of a sexual body part was reported 1,041 times, or in 0.00014% of completed trips
  • Non-consensual penetration (rape) was reported 156 times, representing 0.00002% of completed trips

The Lyft Community Safety Report did not include data to show the percentage of drivers versus riders who reported sexual assault.

Tips for Staying Safe When Using Uber or Lyft

In recent years, there has been increased public focus on rideshare safety. Rideshare companies are a convenient and popular method of transportation. They usually cost less than a regular taxi and are also quicker to arrive.

Uber and Lyft both have safety policies in place, such as background checks and mandatory training for their drivers. Still, it’s a good idea to observe the following safety tips when using either of these services:

  • Check the driver’s rating on your mobile rideshare app
  • Wait inside for your driver to arrive
  • Use your mobile app to share driver and trip data with your family or friends
  • Before getting into the car, ask the driver who they are picking up
  • Confirm the driver’s name as well as the make and model of their car
  • If possible, travel in groups
  • When you’re alone, ride in the backseat
  • Do not share any personal information
  • If something doesn’t feel right, do not get in the car

Uber and Lyft have seen a number of lawsuits resulting from allegations of sexual misconduct by drivers or riders. Both companies have responded with attempts to increase passenger and driver safety. Still, more could be done to protect vulnerable individuals. If you have been a victim of sexual assault while using Uber or Lyft, help is available.

If you are not sure where to turn, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is a great place to start.

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk confidentially with a trained professional.

They can put you in touch with local resources and support groups that can help in your healing journey..