Raped By An Uber Cab Driver, Horrified By Everything

This December, a woman in the DC area took an Uber cab home. She arrived home safely around 3 AM, and home security camera footage shows her walking up towards her house to go inside. The security camera then shows her walking back to the cab (she reports that she had thought she left her jacket inside). The driver hit her on the head, knocked her unconscious, and carried her behind her own garage, where he raped her. The security camera shows that the woman later came to and walked back to her door.

The survivor reported the incident to the police and had a rape kit administered within twelve hours. Police are currently investigating the incident, and it went public after a local listserv posted a warning to its readers about the driver. The survivor’s driveway, where the crime occurred, is shared with two other families, and several acquaintances were informed about the details of the crime by the family; the survivor reported to Autostraddle that one of them likely created the posting. Uber, the company the driver would have been contracted with, has declared that they “take these matters extremely seriously,” and that “it is [their] policy to deactivate the driver account of someone if we receive information that they have been suspected of committing a crime.” The driver has been interviewed by police, but not charged with anything.

cleveland-park-list-serv

The survivor, an Autostraddle reader, contacted us about what happened to her: both the rape and what she’s dealt with afterwards from the media, the police and the public. Much of the early coverage of the attack was on local and community-oriented media, and doubt about what “really” happened has been horrifyingly rampant. Some have speculated that nothing happened at all, and the report is only a hoax in an attempt to hurt Uber’s business by a rival cab company (because a complex conspiracy of malicious cab drivers seems more plausible than a woman being raped). Others have raised eyebrows at the survivor’s story, arguing that nothing is worth reporting on or taking seriously until a police report is “seen” (because police reports are public documents?) or that the rapist’s decision to let her walk towards the house first was illogical (it seems pretty safe to say that deciding to rape another human being is inherently illogical).

Wildly misogynistic and rape-apologetic discussion won’t surprise anyone who has ever read the comments on a news article dealing with rape, or anything else on the Internet. Regardless of the details of the assault, placing the (unbearable) burden of proof on the victim every single time instead of the rapist is part of a deeply broken culture; demanding to see a police report when that’s exactly the behavior that leads to only 46% of rapes being reported to the police is ludicrous and insulting. But in this case – when there is literally videotaped evidence of what occurred, and the police are involved because the survivor reported the incident almost immediately – really illustrates that a desire to devalue the experiences of everyone everywhere who’s lived through sexual violence, and the willingness to accuse women of being self-interested liars before admitting that some men are rapists, will thrive regardless of the facts of the situation.

Far from being implausible or suspect, reports of a driver sexually assaulting a female passenger, or women being sexually assaulted while trying to get home safe in general, are far from rare. Just in the past week, a woman in Delhi was gang-raped on a bus, and just recently passed away due to her injuries. XOJane has reported on the fact that two of their writers have been sexually assaulted by the same NYC cab driver in totally separate incidents, which begs the question of how frequently even that one driver must be attacking the women he’s paid to transport. Regardless of the rampant victim-blaming and willful disbelief of this woman’s and many women’s experience, it’s fairly obvious that as unsafe as “walking alone at night” is, none of the alternatives we’re offered are safe, either. It’s not safe to take a bus full of other people. It’s not safe to take a cab home, to do the thing women are so often advised to do as the safe alternative after a late night out. There aren’t choices women can make to avoid being raped, not as long as there are people out there who choose to try to rape them. It’s been said dozens of times, but still hasn’t sunk in for many people.

There’s no way to say whether this particular survivor will see justice in the specific understanding of “justice” which means “seeing her rapist go to jail.” We can say with certainty that she will not see and has not seen justice in any real sense of the word, where justice would mean that she was able to leave her house and transport herself home without being sexually assaulted, and that when she was, the rest of the world would treat it as the travesty and occasion for communal grief and anger that it is. Survivors everywhere are long overdue that kind of justice, and it doesn’t seem like it’s coming anytime soon. But while we work for it, we can lend the power of our grief and anger to this woman, and to the other survivors in our lives, and to each other, and to ourselves.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 766 articles for us.

39 Comments

  1. Thumb up 6

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    I can’t even with this story. I live five minutes from Cleveland Park. I use über all the time. Hell, the reason I got their app in the first place is because my best friend and I were assaulted walking home one night. To me, it was literally the second safest thing to do after filing the police report (which went nowhere, of course).

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      That’s awful! I’m so sorry you were assaulted. I was assaulted as well when I was 22 (in broad daylight on a walk in an ostensibly safe suburban area). When I sought out my mother’s support later that evening, she didn’t *blame* me so to speak, but instead told me that that’s just how ALL MEN ARE, and that it just comes with the territory of being a woman, nothing I can do, expect it to happen many more times throughout my life, I was making a big deal out of it, don’t go to the police, etc. My best friend took me to the police the next day, causing the two of us to be late for our morning classes at school. When two guy friends found me later and asked why I was late that day, I told them that I was at the police station filing a report. They froze and asked why. I told them why, and without ANY hesitation whatsoever, in a crowded hallway, they just grabbed me in this huge bear hug sandwich and held me for a good 30 seconds, telling me that I did the right thing, and that no one was ever going to hurt me.

      It breaks my heart that people are so quick to shame or be suspicious of assault victims. But then it’s also nice to know that there is so much support and understanding out there, and that you’ve gotta surround yourself with those who are sympathetic and will look out for you.

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        i’m so sorry about your mother’s reaction. Your two guys friends sound amazing. One of the most healing things for me after my rape was when one of my good guy friends immediately reacted with horror and hugged me tight and told me he was so sorry and that that should never ever have happened which was something I needed to hear as I was always wondering if I was overreacting.

  2. Thumb up 10

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    Wow, that is HORRIFYING, as well as the question — how many other women has this guy assaulted?

    I’ve only ever had totally pleasant and awesome experiences with Uber, but that’s a bit like saying “I’ve only ever had pleasant experiences on dates” or “I’ve only ever had pleasant experiences walking down the street” (though that’s not actually true) — it doesn’t negate the horrific things that do happen. Not to mention that their drivers are contract and usually rent cars through other services as well, which is what concerns me the most – there are multiple companies here that could be holding this guy accountable and aren’t, and a TON of customers he has access to.

    I can’t believe that people are giving this woman so much shit. No wait, I can. I just don’t want to.

  3. Thumb up 8

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    I hope she knows that for every asshole out there, there are dozens if not hundreds of lovely people who want nothing more than for her to heal and feel safe again someday, which hopefully includes putting her rapist behind bars for a very long time.

    I hope every girl and woman who suffers any kind of violence against her knows that.

  4. Thumb up 6

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    I wrote this in my journal the other day:

    Blaming rape victims for their ordeals – for wearing short skirts or walking alone at night or being attractive – is like blaming a passenger for a car crash or a shopowner for a theft. Just because someone is in a situation where a bad thing is a possibility does not mean they deserve it when bad things happen. Besides placing yourself under house arrest AND avoiding all human contact there is nothing you can do to 100% eliminate the chance of being raped.

  5. Thumb up 17

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    There is something very wrong with our criminal justice system when there is video evidence of a rape and the rapist has not yet been charged.

    There is also something very wrong with the world because I consider myself very lucky that I have never been sexually assaulted, and that status puts me in the minority among my close friends. Most of the women I am close enough to know such things about have been sexually assaulted in some way at some point in their lives and that is royally fucked up.

  6. Thumb up 15

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    Also, a friend posted this comment after I reposted on FB:

    “This kind of thing used to happen all of the time in Taipei, until they reformed the taxi identification system. Each cab had an ID# in large letters and numbers on the back windshield. At first, every time a woman got into a taxi by herself, she’d call someone and tell them, “I’m in taxi #XYZ123. Expect me in 20 minutes.” It’s ridiculous that it even had to get to that point, but at least the rate of assaults has gone down to almost zero. It made the cab drivers extremely accountable for their actions… it’s sad that that was the motivation, and not just to be a decent human being.”

    I replied that it IS sad but presumably effective. If we implemented more accountability measures like this it might help. Rapists and would-be rapists aren’t just going to wake up nice guys overnight, and until there is some kind of massive widespread prevention education in place, they’re going to keep waking up and raping people every day.

    It’s fucked up but pretending otherwise doesn’t serve to protect victims (or ourselves) at all.

  7. Thumb up 25

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    To the survivor: If you consented to hugs, know I would give them to you and cuddle the shit out of you and bring you ice cream and rainbows and tiny stuffed animals shaped like unicorns and hippos and sunshine if you wanted that. Why hippos? Because hippos, that’s why.

    Basically: know that your family here supports you 100%, and that we’re here for you if you ever need anything. You shouldn’t have to fight this fight or have had it happen to you, you did everything right and I would punch the ‘justice’ system in the face SO HARD if I could.

  8. Thumb up 6

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    I’m so glad this site exists to help counteract some of the stupidity surrounding cases like this, or at least offer an alternate news article: one that is whole-heartedly supportive of the woman involved. I’d like to add my own love and support. I am so sorry you’re going through all this pain.

  9. Thumb up 7

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    As a survivor/victim (however you see me or I see myself) this is disheartening. I am so tired of this happening daily. It’s sickening and completely unacceptable. I really just don’t get it.
    I am so sorry that this happened to you and I wish I could take it away..
    How do we, as a community (world-wide) create change in this? How do we make a difference?

  10. Thumb up 2

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    This story is really horrific yet doesn’t surprise me. In the grand scheme of things, this is as bad as it gets but I believe it begins on a very subtle level-in the workplace, for example. I work in a male-dominant career (law enforcement) and there have been numerous times where I felt I was treated unfairly or inappropriately but refused to take it to the next level because the next level was usually another man looking out for another man. I was always advised “the reputation will follow you no matter where you go on this job”. Meaning, no one will want to talk to you because you are a rat. It’s disgusting. I really hope that justice is served for this woman. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Thumb up 7

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    Wow. Sometimes I think the universe is heading in the right direction w/r/t treatment of survivors, and then I read about stories like this and it just makes me so fucking angry.
    If the survivor is reading this, please know that everyone on AS is here for you. I mean, I assume you already know that, but please remember that we care about you so, so much, and the same goes for anyone else here who’s gone through a similar ordeal. One of the best things about this community is that we’re always here for each other, and whenever any of us has been harmed the way this girl has it’s incredibly important to reiterate that.

  12. Thumb up 2

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    This story is horrifying but yes sadly not unique. Here in a reasonably quiet county in the south east of England a ring of 9 male taxi drivers has been recently uncovered and arrested by police for a culture of this very same thing. The investigation is still on going apparently as this gang is bigger than police originally thought.
    Awareness is one of the ways to stop these things from happening so often, so well done you guys for drawing attention to this horrible issue. As the girl who went through this ordeal reads autostraddle…my thoughts and prayers are with you, I can’t imagine what you are going through, but you must be praised for having the courage to come forward and being strong enough to have the clarity of mind to make everyone aware of this monstrous man who could have hurt other people if you had acted differently.

  13. Thumb up 7

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    I was assaulted (a month ago today, actually) when I was walking into my apartment building, after walking the incredible distance of a block and a half to get home. The police came but they didn’t even bother taking a report from me, and the guy was gone by the time they showed up. Most of the people who were around right after or who I told were really great about supporting and helping me, but one of my program directors (this happened during a study abroad program) was basically just like “well, why didn’t you take a cab home?”. I was so frustrated because it wouldn’t have changed anything, it would have made absolutely no sense to take a cab a block and a half, and come ON, as if I didn’t go over my actions a thousand times to try and see if I could have done anything to change the situation. Super unnecessary and shitty, I felt, but then I see something like this and I’m just horrified in every way. If taking a cab is THE safe thing for women to do, and that’s not even safe, well then, how the fuck are we supposed to feel?

    To the woman in this story: I’m so, so sorry that happened to you, and I’m just really sick and sad about the fact that you’ve had to deal with awful people doubting you, and that the police didn’t arrest the cab driver immediately. I hope that the authorities follow up and that he can’t hurt any more people. You’re so strong for sharing this with everyone, and I’m really glad that your family is supporting you and trying to help in this situation.

  14. Thumb up 6

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    I am so sad for this woman. Situations like this are so exhausting and disheartening. A few months ago, I was abducted by my cab driver, and I am convinced that he was going to rape and/or kill me. I pressed charges, and was met with a level of skepticism and apathy that was absolutely horrifying, and I’m now embroiled in what seems to be a never-ending court case.

    You’re exactly right when you say that there is no “safe alternative” to get home at night. We aren’t supposed to walk, or take public transit, or drive, and now maybe our cab driver is going to rape us too, so what are we supposed to do?

    To the survivor of this attack: if you’re reading this now, know that we love you, we support you, we believe you, and we stand behind you. You’re going to be okay.

  15. Thumb up 3

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    In my Social Problems class today, only 2 people heard about the New Delhi woman that was raped on a bus by 6 men. I am included in that number.
    First of all, WHAT THE FUCK.
    Second of all, this patriarchy, our society is spinning out of control. Women are being tortured and then SILENCED by oppressors. And who are the oppressors? Everyone, apparently.
    This is supposed to be a first world civilization, but all I’m seeing are animals. Carnal, basic, animals.
    There is no necessary transcendent human connection between the populous and those who are supposed to serve us and protect us.
    I am not just concerned about our collective future on a whole, I am terrified.

  16. Thumb up 4

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    My first thought (sadly) was that since she’d done the “right” thing by taking the cab home and reporting it immediately and consenting to a sometimes-traumatizing rape kit, maybe the media wouldn’t be able to victim blame. And then I saw the conspiracy of evil cab drivers theory to dismiss her credibility and face palmed. My faith in humanity is dwindling by the day, I swear to god. I hope she has people to support and reassure her and say “it’s not your fault” as many times as necessary for her to maybe, just a little bit, believe them.

  17. Thumb up 4

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    As a survivor who was told by the NYPD that I just regret man-sex because I’m lesbian- my heart goes out to her, and victims of victim-blaming… It makes me proud to apart of a community who is willing to have important discussions like this

  18. Thumb up 7

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    Things I have learned about Uber since hearing about this:
    1) Uber does not require ANY background checks of its drivers. The way the platform is set up (and the reason they’ve been so successful in cities like DC), is the driver just needs to download an app that provides them with a constant feed of pick up addresses as they come in. The driver has to pay Uber a cut, and that’s about it. If you use Uber from your home, like I used to, the driver will have valuable knowledge of your home address and what hours you keep.
    2) On the other hand, all DC licensed cab drivers have to have background checks and have to display their license ID numbers clearly
    3) Uber basically claims it acts as a third party in these transactions, somehow believing this barrs them from any liability incurred while customers use their service.

    I am so thankful that AS has reported on this incident because the coverage in by local news outlets has been extremely victim-blaming and deplorable. Don’t even get me started on the comment sections. I’ve been spreading the word to all my friends not to use Uber. To the straddler that this happened to: we all love you very, very much and I’ll always be here for you.

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