BREAKING: Arrest made in December 2012 Uber rape case

In December, a Yahoo! Group for DC’s Cleveland Park neighborhood, posted a message detailing a rape allegedly committed by an Uber cabdriver a few days prior. According to the listerv post, a 20-year-old woman who used Uber, an “on-demand” cab service accessed via a smartphone app, was attacked, knocked unconscious and raped by her driver after receiving a ride to her home in Cleveland Park.

We wrote about the case in January, noting the strong need for violence prevention and safer travel options for women.

Today, Prince of Petworth announced that an arrest has been made in the case.  We at CASS send our hearts out to the survivor and wish her the best. We hope that Uber pays close attention to this tragedy to learn how others can be prevented.

Details below, along with a statement from Uber. 


Reposted from Prince of Petworth, 3/15/13:

Back in mid-December there was a report on the Cleveland Park listserv of an Uber driver who had allegedly sexually assaulted a woman on the 3200 block of 36th Street NW. An arrest in that case has now been made.

From MPD:

The Metropolitan Police Department has announced that an arrest has been made in the First Degree Sexual Abuse that occurred in the 3200 block of 36th Street, NW. 

On Saturday, December 8, 2012, at approximately 3:00 am, an adult female who had hired a cab service was sexually assaulted while in the 3200 block of 36th Street, NW. 

After an investigation by members of the Sexual Assault Unit, a warrant was issued for 35 year-old Anouar Habib Trabelsi of Alexandria, VA, charging him with First Degree Sexual Abuse.

On March 13, 2013, Mr. Trabelsi was arrested by members of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Ed. Note: Representatives from Uber will be releasing a statement shortly at which point I will update here.

Statement from Rachel Holt, Washington, DC General Manager, Uber:

Immediately upon being told that a driver for Capitol Limo, a limo company utilizing Uber technology, was suspected of committing a crime, we deactivated the partner account. He has not done a single ride through Uber since then. We have worked closely with the police and prosecutors investigating this incident, and will continue to help them in any way possible. The safety of our users is absolutely paramount, and we will continue to be vigilant that riders’ safety and security are protected.

 

Help MPD Find A Sexual Suspect Suspect — Deanwood Metro, 9/6/12 around 11pm

Working hard in prepping for the Council’s Metro hearing, we knew how common perpetrators follow potential victims from the bus/metro. This is why we requested that data and policing between the Transit Police and the local jurisdictional police happen more closely to curtail these types of crimes. On Septemer 6, 2012, a female was sexually assaulted after she was followed by the perpetrator at the Deanwood Metro. MPD is looking for the suspect located in the video below. Please contact us or the police if you know the individual or were at the Deanwood Metro on Thursday, September 6 at or around 11pm.

Read more from NBC Washington and see the official Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) press release (along with the original video footage) below.

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Contact: Gwendolyn Crump 202-727-4383

September 14, 2012

Person of Interest Sought in Sexual Assault in the 1300 block of 45th Place, NE

(Washington, DC) – Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Sexual Offenses Unit are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying a person of interest in a sexual assault while armed which occurred on Thursday, September 6, 2012, in the 1300 block of 45th Place, NE, at approximately 11:18 PM.

The person of interest is shown in this video exiting a train at the Deanwood Metro station and then following the victim through the station’s tunnel. He is described as a black male in his early-to mid-20s, 5’7″ tall, 160 pounds, with a medium complexion. During the offense, he was wearing a white polo shirt with a dark horizontal stripe across the middle, and khaki pants.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the police at (202) 727-9099.  Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411.

A composite sketch of the suspect

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The “Dupont Circle Bike Groper” & Sentencings for Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse

For those who don’t know, let’s be clear: It is hard to report the crime of groping to police. You know why? Because many victims of groping may internalize the crime as petty and not as big a deal as other physical assaults. Another reason why? Well, because there is a theme in our communities of how police react to these crimes: “If you don’t know what he looked like, then we don’t know if we can move forward.” In comes Liz.

Liz reported the crime to MPD. She gave a description, location, time. She called the police immediately. It was a moment of strength, determination, and “damn, we shouldn’t be dealing with this crap” that moved Liz. To be fair, it really got the conversation going again. We, DC Metro residents, shouldn’t tolerate street harassment, particularly that type of harassment which is an affront to our physical space. Your hand should not touch my ass. Nor should your hand, because your brain decided it, attempt to go up my skirt.

It appears many women reported assaults by the same suspect. And, it appears, that the police took these cases seriously. Applause. They combed through surveillance footage, did stake outs, and interviewed witnesses. Check, check and check. And, then they caught the alleged perpetrator, showed him the video, and he admitted his guilt to the crimes that were caught on camera. He also stated that he did it to several other women. Now we drop the “alleged.”

He was charged with misdemeanor sexual abuse and released to a halfway house. Keep in mind, a misdemeanor sentence is light.

Before we start getting rattled on this, let’s applaud MPD for their efforts in nabbing this guy. It may not sound like we should. But, we should. We hope they continue pulling out all the stops in all areas of DC, for all victims of sex crimes, for whenever these sex crimes take place– day or night. Seriously, awesome! Keep it up!

And, let’s take a moment to realize how messed up the criminal justice system is. It’s a complicated affair to be happy on a global level when a man of color admits guilt to misdemeanor sexual abuse. We understand that street harassment—sexual violence—is complex. Someone somewhere said that this behavior, sexually violating a person’s body without their consent, is fine. It’s okay. It’s what everyone does. We are up against a lot to change the way we teach, talk, and love one another.

But, what we can’t expect is the futility of reporting a sex crime. Here is the statute:

Whoever engages in a sexual act or sexual contact with another person and who should have knowledge or reason to know that the act was committed without that other person’s permission, shall be imprisoned for not more than 180 days and, in addition, may be fined in an amount not to exceed $1,000.

If the point is a slap on the wrist, will it matter? Does it move the ball forward if a perpetrator who grabs a woman’s breasts does not get in serious trouble? Do these laws actually stop a potential perpetrator from violating a woman’s body? With laws reflecting our moral standards, are we okay with this?

Collective Action for Safe Spaces is not pro-criminalization. We are pro-ending street harassment. This comes in many different forms—from community education and forums to potential jail time. From restorative justice mechanisms to tougher sentencing options for those who admit to sexual assault. We are pro-survivor. Sometimes the target of street harassment wants to report to police, sometimes he or she does not. We are pro-community. We take our community where it is — potential perpetrators, potential victims, and everyone on the edges and in between.

You’ve heard our opinion. Now, you tell us yours. Do you want the sentencing of misdemeanor sexual abuse to be stronger?