Things That Matter

Major Hotel Chains Are Rolling Out Panic Buttons To Protect Their Employees From Sexual Assault

Workers rights have been evolving and changing sine the Industrial Revolution. Things like the five-day work week, eight-hour days and safe working conditions were all rights that had to be forced on employers through legislation, unions and activism. These things give workers a safe working environment that everyone deserves if they are putting in the time. The latest fight in workers rights is happening in hotels and is thanks in part to the #MeToo movement. Major hotel chains are finally stepping up to protect their housekeepers and other employees by rolling out panic buttons.

Major hotel chains will soon provide panic buttons to their employees in order to prevent them from sexual assaulted and other crimes.

“Protecting our employees and the millions of guests who stay in our hotels each day is of paramount importance to the industry,” Katherine Lugar, president and chief executive of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said to the media, according to Reuters.

Executives and leaders in the hotel industry had resisted the extra safety step, but increased pressure changed their position.

A report by the Center for American Progress showed the employees in the accommodation and food industry have filed the most harassment charges than any other industry.

“The accommodation and food services industry—including full-service restaurants, fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, recreational facilities, inns, hotels, and other hospitality establishments—accounted for 14.2 percent of the sexual harassment claims filed,” reads a report from the Center for American Progress. “Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that women represent the majority of workers in the accommodation and food services industry, often in lower-paying jobs such as food servers and preparers.”

The device looks just like a key chain and can be pinned on clothing or hidden in pockets.

According to Reuters, the cost to produce and distribute the device will cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” but it seems like gadget will be very much worth it.

Hotels like Marriott International Inc and Hilton will begin to roll out the device to their employees in the next couple of years.

“In those moments you don’t feel safe; you don’t see that person any more as a guest,” Dallamy Santos told Reuters. “You don’t want to have to worry about where you’re going to get the help.”


READ: 13 People Have Accused Peruvian Photographer Mario Testino of Sexual Assault

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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 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.”

Major Investigation Reveals That Most Popular Dating Apps Aren’t Keeping Users Safe From Sex Offenders

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Major Investigation Reveals That Most Popular Dating Apps Aren’t Keeping Users Safe From Sex Offenders

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A 16-month investigation conducted by Columbia Journalism Investigations found that the Match Group which owns 45 popular dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and OK Cupid does not screen for sexual offenders. Match Group does audit users for sex crimes on their namesake property Match.com, but admits that on its free platforms it expects users to police themselves. 

The CJI report found that the policy leaves users vulnerable to sexual assault, and multiple victims have reported rapes because of it. Tinder, the company’s most successful app, has 5.2 million subscribers. Altogether Match Group is worth $1.7 billion in revenue. Many feel the publicly-traded company owes its subscribers more protection. 

Susan Deveau says her Plenty of Fish date raped her. 

When 54-year-old Deveau met Mark Papamechail on Plenty of Fish in 2016, she had no way of knowing he was a three-time convicted rapist. In Massachusetts, he was listed as a dangerous registered sex offender. After going on several dates, Deveau reported to the police that Papamechail raped her. She was the second woman to report Papamechail for rape after meeting him on a dating app. 

According to the app’s terms of use subscribers must “promise” they haven’t committed a felony, sex crime, or violent crime by agreeing to it. Thus the only method of screening is an honor system that assumes any user would actually read through the lengthy agreement. The company does not try to verify or screen for whether users are being honest or not. 

There’s a reason why Match.com screens for registered sex offenders.

Before Match Group bought up its competitors and became publicly traded, it agreed to screen for sex crimes on its flagship property Match.com. When the company expanded it didn’t extend this policy to its catalog of 45 apps. Match.com only agreed to check its users against the government’s sex offender registries after a public complaint from Carole Markin in 2011.

Markin says she was raped by a man she met on the platform on their second date. Afterward, she discovered he was convicted of rape six times. Markin was able to make her lawsuit public having been an entertainment executive herself. Under pressure, Match.com’s lawyers revealed they had begun implementing the screening process that utilized the government registries. Eventually, Markin settled.

A Match Group spokesperson told CJI that the free platforms don’t collect enough data to create a uniform screening policy. 

“There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products,” the spokesperson said

CJI found at least 157 incidents of sexual assault across dating apps. 

Most of the assaults happened within the last 5 years. Almost all of the victims were women who met their attackers on a Match Group dating app. 

“In 10% of the incidents, dating platforms matched their users with someone who had been accused or convicted of sexual assault at least once, the analysis found. Only a fraction of these cases involved a registered sex offender,” according to the investigation. 

However, what was most notable was that Match.com, which does have a screening policy, had no assault cases. Match Group’s spokesperson said that tens of millions of people use their platform, therefore 157 cases aren’t enough to warrant an overhaul. 

 “[Match Group] takes the safety, security, and well-being of our users very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “A relatively small amount of the tens of millions of people using one of our dating services have fallen victim to criminal activity by predators. We believe any incident of misconduct or criminal behavior is one too many.”

Some employees told CJI they don’t think the company goes far enough to protect users.

According to the investigation, many who worked at Match Group feel the company doesn’t equip or train them to deal with sexual assault complaints. Some said the process also fails to prevent more harm even after an incident has been reported because banned users can easily make new accounts.

“The problem has grown as the popularity of online dating has soared — in 2015, 12% of American adults were on a dating site, compared with 3% in 2008,” according to the report. “In 2016, the UK National Crime Agency reviewed police reports over a five-year period and found online-dating sexual assault had increased as much as 450% — from 33 to 184 cases.” 

CJI surveyed 1,200 women who used a dating app with the last 15 years. A third of the women surveyed said one of their dates sexually assaulted them, half of these women said it was rape. Match Group refused to comment on the questionnaire. 

Only five states have regulations to protect online daters, but those measures largely exist to prevent scams. With little pressure for the industry to change and as more victims come forward the future of online dating remains uncertain.