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‘Continues driving under a new name’: Survivor of sexual assault by Lyft driver says company, government is ignoring her case

'They asked me why I was 'comfortable' recounting my gang-rape.'

 

Kahron Spearman

IRL

Published Jul 14, 2021   Updated Aug 4, 2021, 3:37 pm CDT

Alison Turkos, a survivor of sexual assault by a Lyft driver, penned a poignant letter to federal prosecutors who are not “taking action,” telling them, “Instead of fighting for justice, you are denying me my day in court.”

In a recent Medium post, she wrote to Jacquelyn Kasulis, the acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, disappointed in how numerous U.S. attorneys have handled her case. In the open letter, she notes that beyond sexual assault, her case also involves “aggravated kidnapping.” She also alleges horrifying behavior within Kasulis’ office, include challenges to her testimony and case evidence.

“In the sole conversation I had with [attorney Genny Ngai], [attorney Marietou Diouf], and [attorney Hiral Mehta] in February 2021, I was not shown respect or empathy,” she wrote. “They asked me why I was ‘comfortable’ recounting my gang-rape. They asked what ‘sexual positions’ I recalled. Let me be clear: There are no sexual positions in a rape. It’s an assault. It is brutal. It’s penetration by force. It is not sex.”

It also included this particularly damning passage: “Later, I would learn they pressed the emergency room clinician who treated me the day I reported about the extent of my injuries. Despite telling the FBI and your AUSAs that my sexual assault was ‘the worst she’s seen in her 17 years of providing care in a Brooklyn hospital,’ Ms. Ngai and Ms. Diouf asked her if my brutal injuries could have been caused by ‘inserting a tampon.’ According to the FBI, your office didn’t just ask this question once. They asked it FOUR times.”

“If your team thinks that a gang rape includes ‘sexual positions’ or that severe sexual trauma can be mistaken for tampon use, I have little faith the Eastern District has the capacity to believe a victim or understand trauma. (And for the record, I don’t use tampons. I don’t have a menstrual cycle. Something your office would know if they bothered to ask).”

In an Associated Press report, Turkos said “she fell asleep during a car service ride home from a night out with friends in Brooklyn and ending up being taken, at gunpoint, to New Jersey and raped by three men in October 2017. She said she went to a hospital and called police two days after it happened.”

She initially thought the driver was driving around to scam her but quickly realized it would turn for the worse. “That was when I realized that this was not just someone trying to scam $20 or $30 out of me, Turkos recounted to ABC News. “It was going to be the worst night of my life.”

After the 2017 assault, Turkos had difficulty obtaining information from the NYPD special victims division until she eventually filed a complaint, per AP. Her case was ultimately moved onto the FBI. She chose to sue both the New York Police Department and Lyft. 

Though the Lyft driver has been identified, Turkos says no one involved has been arrested or charged. A rape kit shows that at least two men were involved, and her Lyft ride receipt details her being taken across state lines to New Jersey from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She’s calling on the Department of Justice to investigate her case thoroughly.

Turkos says the driver still has an active NYC Taxi and Limo commission license.

She wrote in 2019 about what she and others believed was a failure by Lyft to correct their end of a broader issue: scores of sexual assault incidents by drivers they hired, and the tepid actions they’ve taken since it’s become a significant issue.

“After being attacked, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and struggle with severe trust issues,” she wrote in a Medium post. “Lyft’s failure to remove the driver from the app, and allow him to continue driving under a new name and profile has not only exacerbated my PTSD and inability to feel safe but has also placed other passengers’ lives at risk. How many other passengers has this man harmed while on Lyft’s payroll in the two years since I reported?”

Turkos, responding by email, says litigation with Lyft continues on “in discovery status.”

Regarding the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, she writes, “I am waiting to see what their response is. I am also looking to see if others victims and survivors who have cases within the EDNY have had similar experiences and been denied access to justice. I’d love to hear from them and see if we can work together toward systemic change. This is not a justice system.”

The Daily Dot reached out to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. We will update this post if we hear back.


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*First Published: Jul 14, 2021, 1:12 pm CDT