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Uber sexual assault report prompts concerns over ridesharing in B.C. But are taxis any safer?


In the wake of damning data from Uber that found more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported inside U.S. rides last year, B.C. is asking how safe ridesharing will be when it eventually arrives on the province’s roads.

But a lack of similar data regarding sexual assaults in taxis across B.C. makes it difficult to draw comparisons.

In its safety report, Uber said 464 people were raped while using its U.S. services in 2017 and 2018. Almost all of them — 99.4 per cent — were riders. It’s difficult to compare those statistics to other modes of transportation because U.S. taxi companies and transit agencies generally do not collect similar national data.


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Uber reports more than 3,000 sexual assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

That appears to be the case in B.C. as well. The RCMP and other police agencies said they didn’t have that data on hand, adding it’s “not something that can be easily teased out.”

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Although Vancouver police said they have received “a number of complaints” over the last two years, a spokesperson said it’s “not an epidemic by any means”, considering the number of rides that take place.

The Passenger Transportation Board, which is tasked with dealing with driver complaints, also said it doesn’t track those specific incidents.






Fraser Valley temple president charged with sexual assault


Fraser Valley temple president charged with sexual assault

Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena said the province demands “the highest level” of criminal background checks for taxi drivers, and is assuring the province the same standard will be set for ridesharing drivers.

“We have a very strict policy with taxis where we do follow up if there are assaults,” she said. “We obviously want people to be safe however they’re travelling, whatever form of transportation they’re using.

“There are, sadly, always going to be incidents and I think this is extremely concerning that there are. We do everything we can to make sure that those people who are driving a vehicle to earn an income are assessed, are checked … to ensure people who are driving are as safe as we can attest.”



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Uber weighs next steps after report showed more than 3,000 sex assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

In its report, Uber noted that drivers and riders were both attacked and that some assaults occurred between riders. It added its data was based solely on reports from riders and drivers — meaning the actual numbers could be much higher. Sexual assaults commonly go unreported.

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In B.C., at least two taxi drivers have been charged with sexually assaulting a passenger while on the job this year, including a July case in Kelowna and another in North Vancouver this past March.

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver, said sexual violence is bound to happen when vulnerable people, particularly women, find themselves in a confined space.






Uber safety report reveals nearly 6K cases of alleged sexual assault


Uber safety report reveals nearly 6K cases of alleged sexual assault

“We know that many women are experiencing sexual violence in taxi cabs, including women that are vulnerable such as Indigenous women, women with disabilities,” she said. “It is a big concern.”

MacDougall also took issue with Uber noting the number of sexual assaults in 2018 pales in comparison to the 1.3 billion rides across the U.S. that year. In her view, just one case is too many.

“We shouldn’t be in a situation where a woman needs a ride to work or home from work, or from a night out, and is at risk of sexual violence,” she said.

“We expect ridesharing companies will take this very seriously and will take action and to prevent it.”


READ MORE:
North Shore Taxi driver charged for allegedly sexually assaulting passenger in cab in West Vancouver

No one from the Vancouver Taxi Association or the city’s taxi companies responded to requests for comment.

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In the past, the association has taken issue with ridesharing drivers not being required to mount cameras inside their vehicles like taxis do. MacDougall said that’s also not the point.

“It maybe provides some deterrent, maybe some evidence, but we also know that cameras can be disabled,” she said.

“The point is, rather, that the company is taking very careful action in their recruitment and monitoring of those in the ridesharing program, and that they take swift and serious action any time there is an allegation or evidence of sexual violence.”

Lyft said last year it would also release a safety report. A company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that it “remained committed” to releasing a report, but did not say when.

—With files from the Associated Press




© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.







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MANDEL: Sex assault acquittal overturned after judge use ‘discredited rape myths’


She didn’t dress the way he’d expect. She didn’t react the way he’d expect.

She simply didn’t behave the way an Ontario judge expected a sexual assault victim to behave.

After all these years, some on the bench are still trapped in biases of the past. And so Ontario Court Justice Peter J. Wright acquitted the man on trial, finding Richard Lacombe hadn’t twice assaulted his neighbour who lived in an assisted care residence for persons with disabilities.

Among the many factors he found significant?

“She dressed in a loose fitting pyjama top with no bra and underwear, engaging with a man that she really did not know well at all, including significant French kissing.”

The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned that 2017 acquittal and ordered a new trial, finding the trial judge’s analysis was tainted by “long-discredited myths and stereotypes about sexual assault complainants.”

According to the woman, her neighbour knocked on her door and invited her out for a cigarette on the fire escape. As they chatted, she claimed he began touching and pinching her breasts. She asked him to stop but he just laughed, she said, and put his hand down her pants and rubbed her hard.

When he French kissed her, she kissed him back because, she said, he wasn’t listening to her and she feared he would hit her.

When she went back to her room, she saw that he’d caused her to bleed. She was too terrified to tell anyone.

The following evening, the second alleged assault took place under virtually the same circumstances. She agreed to meet him for a smoke because she was afraid of his reaction if she turned him down, she explained. She became more frightened when the man allegedly got angry when she refused to masturbate him.

This time, though, she complained to her boyfriend and a girlfriend. She listened to their advice and called police.

Lacombe’s story was far different. He said she was the one who came to his room, flashed her breasts and asked him to touch her. But besides that brief consensual touching and a further “peck on the lips” the following night, he insisted nothing else happened between them.

The trial judge listed 11 factors that made him question the woman’s credibility, including the way she was dressed, her failure to leave the situation at once or to immediately report what happened.

He then invoked “common sense and life experiences” to conclude that he should reject her version of events.

The Crown appealed and a Superior Court judge upheld Lacombe’s acquittal.

The Crown appealed again and this time, Ontario’s highest court agreed a retrial was necessary because the judge was working from an outdated lens of “rape myths.”

“Dress does not signify consent, nor does it justify assaultive behaviour,” wrote Justice Sarah E. Pepall on behalf of the three-judge panel. “As such, it had no place in the trial judge’s assessment of the complainant’s credibility and reliability.”

Nor should he have placed any weight on her not immediately telling friends or police.

“The myth that a sexual assault complainant is less credible if she does not immediately complain is one of the more notorious examples of the speculation that in the past has passed for truth in this difficult area of human behaviour and the law,” Pepall wrote, quoting a decision already a decade old.

The appeal court was also critical of the trial judge for questioning why the complainant would have kissed Lacombe and not left.

“There is no rule as to how victims of sexual assault are apt to behave,” Pepall wrote in a stern rebuke. “He was comparing her conduct to conduct he expected of a sexual assault complainant without giving any consideration to her evidence of fear.”

Or as another judge once wisely stated: “These cases should never be decided on how abuse victims are expected to react by people who have never suffered abuse.”

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