South Bay pushes to require rideshare companies to report sexual assaults

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Friday, December 2, 2022
SJ pushes to change rideshare sexual assault reporting
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San Jose is proposing to require Uber and Lyft to report sexual assault allegations to local police but some argue it would be harmful to survivors.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, there's a dispute over a proposed ordinance requiring rideshare companies, like Uber and Lyft, to report sexual assault allegations to local police but some argue that such a policy could be harmful to survivors of sex assault.

With only weeks left in office, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is doubling down on the proposed ordinance he says will improve community safety.

"I'm proposing to the (city) council that we require any ride-sharing or taxi companies, including Uber and Lyft, to report any sexual assault occurring in connection with their services, and to fully inform survivors of their choices about whether to report their victimization, and how best to access services," Liccardo said.

The proposal is backed by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen who says that talks with rideshare companies about the ordinance started months ago.

"Their absence of engagement was disheartening," Rosen said, "Their refusal to move from their position was disappointing. Their automatic rejection of even a suggested pilot project was extremely dissatisfying and dangerous."

MORE: Lawsuit with 550 plaintiffs claims Uber failed to protect female riders from sexual assault

Uber sent ABC7 the below statement in response:

"We are clear with survivors that contacting police is their choice to make - and if they decide to go to the police, we have dedicated teams ready to support both them and law enforcement. This position is guided by the foremost experts on this issue and by survivors themselves, all of whom have consistently told us that assuming someone wants the police involved, or pressuring them to do so, risks retraumatizing them. To insinuate that Uber somehow misleads survivors or benefits financially or reputationally or from our approach is categorically false. We have talked openly about these issues and led the industry to disclose detailed data not because it was easy, but because it was the right thing to do. We've offered to work with the mayor and DA to address their concerns, but they have consistently maintained their desire for Uber to automatically report survivor names, contact information and deeply personal details to police without their consent which goes against the advice of local and national victim advocates and takes away their power of choice. - Emilie Boman, Director of Global Safety Policy

One of the advocacy groups Uber says their policy has been guided by, is ValorUS.

The CEO, Sandra Henriquez says the proposed ordinance is harmful to victims.

"We are one of the groups that went to Uber and said, do not share survivors confidential information without their consent." she said, "That's bad practice and we would really be against any kind of sharing like that."

MORE: Uber rolls out text-to-911 safety feature on rideshare app for users across US

At the end of Thursday's press conference on the ordinance, Liccardo said he expected the response from rideshare companies.

"I expect they'll have others, perhaps speaking for them in various ways and there will be assertions that their only interest is to protect the agency of the survivors, their only interest is to protect the privacy of the survivors," he said, "There's certainly ample reason to wonder whether or not they're also interested in protecting their own pocketbooks."

Henriquez says the organization itself has brought their concerns to Liccardo and Rosen but were not able to come to an agreement.

"(Victims) need to be able to control when and how they deal with that," Henriquez said, "They don't need people calling them out of the blue and saying, 'Hey, we got your phone number from this other place and we want to talk to you about that.'"

Liccardo goes before the city's rules committee with the proposal on Wednesday and expects it to have support from law enforcement and other leaders even after the start of the New Year when he's termed out of office.

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