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When Allison Pohle, staff writer for Boston.com, used Uber to get home from an assignment one evening, she found herself locked in a terrible situation.
In an article she wrote for Boston.com, Pohle describes the uneasy encounter that began with her Uber driver offering her oral sex, then refusing to unlock the doors when he reached her destination, and ended with him trying to kiss her. Pohle managed to escape, but when she reported the incident to Uber, the response she received was just as troubling.
The night of the incident, I filed a complaint through the app to report what happened. A few hours later, a customer service representative sent an email telling me that Uber refunded the ride and gave me a $30 credit toward future rides. He said they’d notify people on the “local level” to provide “coaching opportunities to prevent this sort of incident from ever happening again in the future.” He also said that Uber took “steps to ensure that future pairings between yourself and this driver are no longer permitted.”
Pohle repeatedly asked the company what “coaching opportunities” meant and whether her harasser would still be driving, but she was told that Uber doesn’t have “a blueprint” for responding to claims of harassment.
Pohle told the Daily Dot via email that since the article went live, “I’ve heard from so many women who have had similar experiences but haven’t known how to put words to what happened. I figured I wasn’t alone, but hearing from people across the country has shown me how widespread the issue is, which leads me to question whether the coaching opportunities are effective.”
She also added, “I wish customers in general, not just me, could learn more about what exactly the coaching opportunities entail. I’ve since learned that my driver has been fired, but I hope that Uber takes all reports of these incidents seriously. “
And there have been quite a few of these types of incidents.
Writing for the Daily Beast in 2014, Olivia Nuzzi described her own encounter with an Uber driver who was stalking and taking pictures of her.
In 2013, a 20-year-old woman accused an Uber driver of rape.
A recent investigation by Seattle TV station KIRO 7 revealed numerous complaints of rape and sexual assault against both Uber and Lyft.
And in Ontario, police recently arrested an Uber driver in connection with a kidnapping and sexual assault.
As Pohle notes in her article, Buzzfeed also recently examined leaked Uber data and speculated that rape and sexual assault claims for the app could be in the thousands.
Lyz Lenz is currently the managing editor of the Rumpus. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Jezebel, the Columbia Journalism Review, and Mashable.