Fierce

Latina’s Horrifying Uber Kidnapping Story Is A Reminder That Uber’s Vetting Process Is Not Built To Protect Women From Violence

Last year in July, Elizabeth Suarez broke her ankle, wrist and recieved seven staples in her head after she jumped out of a speeding car to escape an Uber driver trying to kidnap her. This week, she spoke with CNN news about the incident after University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was murdered by a driver pretending to be an Uber driver.

Speaking to CNN Suarez detailed the events of her attack from last year.

UPDATE 9/11/18***: Here’s the exclusive interview I did with KTNV Channel 13 Action News. They included some helpful…

Posted by Liz Martha on Friday, July 13, 2018

After a night of gambling, Elizabeth Suarez says she ordered an Uber on her phone and headed out to the valet where a car drove up and gestured her over. “I said ‘hi are you here for Liz?'” She explained in an interview with CNN.”And hee goes ‘yeah get in.'”

Suarez, who had driven Uber countless times since college, says she didn’t think any thing of it when she got into the car. “We started driving about five minutes later I get a call from my real Uber and he’s like I’m outside of the Uber where are you?”

The realization that she’d gotten into a car with the wrong person sent her into a complete panic. “I didn’t freeze up I knew I had to get out of the situation because he was in full control he could do whatever he wanted and so I just knew get out, get out, keep thinking on my toes. “

After the man pulled her into a deserted parking lot and demanded she give him her wallet and phone, he began to speed up the car. That’s when Suarez jumped out. She broke her wrist, fractured her ankle and winded up in a hospital where she received seven staples to her scalp. Still, she managed to escape an uncertain but potentially lethal fate.

While the murder of Josephson has brought national attention to the kidnappings and sexual assaults by assailants posing as ride-share drivers, thousands of female riders have experienced assault by drivers.

Last year, a woman employee penned a blog post that alleged the company had created an environment where female staffers were subject to sexual harassment. Last month, three Latina employees sued the company over unequal pay. This time, the ride-sharing company has been hit with a lawsuit that alleges they’ve been negligent on incidents of rape and assault experienced by women using their service.

Uber’s latest lawsuit claims that thousands of female riders have experienced abuse at the hands of the company’s employed drivers.

Last year, a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco, alleges that female riders had endured rape, harassment and assault from drivers who were working as employees under the ride share company.

A portion of the filed complaint claims that the company skips a general vetting process for its drivers in an attempt to maintain high profits. The lawsuit argues that the company has experienced an ongoing harassment and assault problem as a result and has ultimately put thousands of women at risk. The plaintiffs of the lawsuit are looking to open up the suit to a class-action status.

“Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-cost, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired,” the complaint reads according to USA Today.

The complaint alleges that Uber has avoided regulations typically placed on transportation companies by labeling themselves as a “technology platform.”

The lawsuit underlines the fact that California drivers using private transportation carriers are typically held to a higher “duty of care,” in terms of monitoring and vetting their operators. Meaning, by law, taxi cab and limousine companies are required to run criminal background checks on their drivers and ensure that they are monitored. Uber, according to the claim, avoids these standards by not being licensed as a private transportation carrier.

In an effort to ensure the safety of future female riders, the complaint is demanding that Uber make “drastic changes” to its policies.

Jeanne Christensen, a lawyer on the case, concluded in a statement reported by USA Today that the company “must come forward with information about how many reports it has received about rapes, sexual assaults and gender-motivated harassment to allow consumers to assess whether Uber really does provide safe rides, especially to women.”

The suit has been brought forward by a victim whose accusations of rape against an Uber driver were confirmed by the driver himself.

The plaintiff, known on court documents as Jane Doe, ordered an Uber ride home in October of 2016 after a night of drinking in Miami-Dade County. She was barely conscious when her driver, Nimer Abdullah, took her up to her apartment and raped her in her own bed. Doe reported the rape to police the next morning and Abdullah was ultimately arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery. He eventually confessed to police that he had raped Doe and admitted to being aware that she was drunk while he assaulted her. When Doe contacted Uber about the incident, she was told they would be “taking the appropriate action here.” According to her complaint, the company never confirmed that Abdullah had been deactivated from being a driver for the company. To compensate her, they offered to refund her the $9.51 she had paid for her ride.

The other plaintiff in the case is a Los Angeles resident who said she had also been intoxicated when she ordered an Uber in January of this year. On her ride home, her driver sexually assaulted her in his car and then followed her into her home and raped her.

The attacks on the two plaintiffs were avoidable had Uber done its due diligence, but they’re also just two examples of a stream of similar incidents.

Not only does the lawsuit cite various other cases of sexual assault, but it also highlights hundreds of public tweets from women who had complained about Uber drivers during the #MeToo campaign.

CASA- Check, Ask, Share, be Aware

Check the license plate as well as the car’s make and mode and driver’s picture. Ask the driver to identify you by name before you get into the car. NEVER tell the driver your name, have them confirm it. Share your location and picture of license plate with a friend or family member and be aware of your surroundings, driver’s behavior and travel route.


Read: These Three Latinas Suing Uber For Failing To Give Them The Same Wages As Their Male Counterparts Are Feminist Goals

Recommend this story to your friends who use Uber to remind them to stay safe and click the share button below. 

An Angry Group Of Anti-Morales Protesters Attacked This Bolivian Mayor Ripping Off Her Clothes And Cutting Her Scalp

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An Angry Group Of Anti-Morales Protesters Attacked This Bolivian Mayor Ripping Off Her Clothes And Cutting Her Scalp

@pvillegas_tlSUR / Twitter

The general elections that took place in Bolivia on Oct. 20, 2019, will go down as a historic moment for the South American country that caused a significant shift for the government — and the movement isn’t over. For outsiders, it may seem as if the ramifications of the elections only affected Evo Morales, the ousted president who declared himself the leader once again for a fourth consecutive term. While Bolivian authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest, the former president, who is currently in Argentina, unrest continues to be felt, especially in Vinto, Bolivia. Warning, these images are graphic. 

On Nov. 7, As a result of the fraudulent elections in Bolivia, anti-government protesters kidnapped Patricia Arce, the mayor of Vinto, Bolivia, and committed horrific crimes against her. 

As supporters of Evo Morales and those against his political party took to the streets in protest of the elections, some took their anger even further by attacking Arce. We should note that Arce is a member of Morales’s political party. And, as a result of her political affiliation, anti-government protesters took her by force from her office. 

She recounted the moment protesters accosted her at work. She knew the area was under attack and wanted to get away, but that is when protesters took her and doused her with red paint. They also cut off her hair and tried to rip off her clothes. 

“When they arrived in Quillacollo, Arce was unrecognizable, her hair shorn, and reeking of gasoline and urine,” BuzzFeed reports. “Her assailants forced her to the ground; they ordered her to resign and speak critically of Morales as she looked into the collection of cellphones they had shoved in her face.”

Video footage shows Arce’s captors holding her down, and they made her sign a resignation letter. 

“I’m not going to shut up,” Arce said in a video, the New York Times reports. “And if they want to kill me, may they kill me. For this process of change, I will give my life.”

Police eventually came to her rescue, but even as she recovered at a hospital, she was informed that she couldn’t remain there because her safety was at risk. She had to leave. 

Morales’ challenger Carlos Mesa has instructed his supporters to remain active on the streets. As of now, officials have said that Bolivians will get a new election, and Morales vows to return to Bolivia by next year

Yet still, through all of this chaos, Arce has returned to work despite some reports that she faked the entire assault. 

In late November, Arce — wearing a blonde wig — gave a press conference. She commented on the accusation that she orchestrated her kidnapping and attack on the streets. She said she would have never done that and does not wish that upon anyone. 

“I do not want any person, any woman to happen what happened to me, I think you have to set a precedent,” Arce said, according to Los Tiempos. “It’s shameful to think that someone would do this to herself,” she added. “I may have been orphaned at two, but I was raised with values and principles.”

Arce said she would continue her term, but it remains to be seen if she herself with be prosecuted because of a recent complaint filed against her. BuzzFeed reports that Arce is being accused of “separatism” and “improper use of public goods and services.” But for now, she remains in office even though she’s still recovering from her injuries. 

“To have quit or to have kneeled down would have been a betrayal of all women,” she told the media news site. 

While it remains to be seen what will come of Bolivia’s government, Morales still has strong allies in Bolivia along with Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Argentina President Alberto Fernández. 

Lopez Obrador said that Bolivia officials need to back off and stop harassing Morales with threats and arrest warrants. 

“The right of asylum must be guaranteed,” Lopez Obrador said, according to the New York Times. But Morales has already vowed to return to Bolivia and lead the country once again. 

READ: Authorities In Bolivia Have Issued An Arrest Warrant For Former Bolivia President Evo Morales

Uber Says There Were More Than 3,000 Sexual Assaults Reported In Its App Last Year And Here’s What They Plan To Do

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Uber Says There Were More Than 3,000 Sexual Assaults Reported In Its App Last Year And Here’s What They Plan To Do

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Uber has been grappling sexism and sexual assault controversies for years now. After revealing its first safety report, the car service disclosed that users reported 3,045 sexual assaults, of those 235 were rapes, during rides last year. There were also nine murders and 58 people were killed in car accidents. 

The number of outright tragedies reported is less than one percent of total Uber rides, which reached 1.3 billion rides in the United States in 2018, according to the company. Nevertheless, officials at Uber were unsettled by the number of crimes and tragedies. 

Uber relies on the fact that it is accessible and ubiquitous to drivers and riders.

Like other ride-hailing apps, including Lyft and Via, the lynchpin of Uber’s business model is an egalitarian approach to who can use it. This means regulations are often ditched in favor of allowing any driver with a car to work for the company. It means these drivers aren’t screened, and in New York City they don’t require a Taxi medallion like traditional yellow cab drivers. 

When employees (and customers for that matter) aren’t properly audited, sexual assaults, attacks, and murders can become all too common. Uber maintains that the crimes and tragedies aren’t a reflection of Uber’s policies but of society’s. 

“The numbers are jarring and hard to digest,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer told the New York Times. “What it says is that Uber is a reflection of the society it serves.”

When the New York Times checked Uber’s safety record against the New York Police Department’s registery of sex crimes and rapes on the city’s transit systems, 553 assaults were reported in 2018. 

There were trends among which crimes drivers committed and which were committed against them. 

While 92 percent of rape victims were riders, murder victims tended to be drivers, riders and other parties. However, both drivers and riders reported other forms of sexual assault at about the same rate, according to Uber’s report. The report categorizes sexual assault into 21 categories that range from unwanted touching to attempted rape to rape. 

“Confronting sexual violence requires honesty, and it’s only by shining a light on these issues that we can begin to provide clarity on something that touches every corner of society,” the company’s chief legal officer, Tony West, said in the executive summary of the report. “The moment is now for companies to confront it, count it, and work together to end it.”

In April a woman filed a $10 million lawsuit against Uber claiming she was sexually assaulted by her driver and as a result is suing the company for negligence and consumer protection violations, according to The Verge. At least 31 drivers have been convicted of various related offenses like assault, rape, false imprisonment and other crimes, according to CNN. Last year, a pedestrian was killed after being hit by a self-driving Uber car. In 2017, an engineer at the company exposed Uber’s corporate culture as sexist leading to an investigation where dozens of employees were fired. 

Uber has begun implementing more steps to protect passengers and drivers.

Uber’s reputation has been overshadowed by seemingly countless incidences of sexual assaults and the report has not pacified all of their critics. Nevertheless, many are praising the company for disclosing such information warts and all. 

“The more that the public is aware, the more the company and everyone else has to respond,” Jeanne Christensen, whose law firm represented rape victims in cases against Uber, told the New York Times. “It’s such a part of daily life that everyone is going to take it. We’re already at that point. So now they just have to make it as safe as possible.”

Uber has been taking steps over the past 21 months to document and prevent more safety violations. In the app, they added a panic button so that passengers can directly call 911 and provide them with their location. Riders can also use check-ins if their driver appears to be taking a suspicious route. 

“All of those steps are starters because these ride-hailing companies have been abjectly failing in their duty to protect against predators or criminals,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told the New York Times

The company has partnered with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to determine its best course of action. Since 2017, the company has tripled the staff of its safety team with continued expansion expected. In 2020, it will roll out a hotline with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. 

“The numbers in the report are not surprising because sexual violence permeates all aspects of our society, whether that’s ride-share or Metro or taxi or a workplace,” Allison Randall of the National Network to End Domestic Violence told Washington Post. “This is definitely the start of a conversation.”