At Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), we have much love for each and every member of our active and informed community who contributes to the blog, engages with us on social media and rolls up their sleeves to lend a hand. Whether you’re an active contributor or a quiet supporter, we think you’re the bee’s knees.
As CASS prepares to launch RightRidesDC (modeled after New York’s award-winning RightRides program that has been operating successfully since 2004), we want to know about your transportation experiences, including public transit, private taxis, car services, and walking or biking late at night around DC! This information will be invaluable to our efforts to meet the safe, affordable transportation needs of our community.
The survey closes Tuesday, May 21st. Please, tweet, post on FB, send to your listervs and forward to friends, colleagues, strangers who live or play in DC! As a small gift for helping us out, at the end of the survey, you’ll be able to submit your email address to be included in a drawing for a $25 gift certificate.
RightRides provides free, safe rides home to women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and gender non-conforming (LGBTQGNC) individuals on Friday and Saturday nights, from 11:59 P.M. to 3:00 A.M. Rides are provided by friendly volunteer driving teams made up of a driver and a navigator (one of which identifies as female) to see riders home safely and help advocate for their increased personal safety. All driving teams are pre-screened to meet high safety standards.
Since 2004, RightRides in New York City has driven more than 6,000 Riders safely home. Last year saw a 51 percent increase in reported sexual assaults in DC, as well as over 40 reported hate crimes based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, we want to bring RightRides to DC. The RightRides motto puts it aptly: “Because getting home safely shouldn’t be a luxury.”
Location: Connecticut Ave NW between Cleveland Park and Van Ness Time: Late Night (12am-5am)
This past Saturday night I was walking north on Connecticut. A cab pulled over and offered to give me a ride (I was just going up the street) free of charge. He told me to get in the front and I foolishly did. He then began to feel me up and grab my thighs.
I was pretty drunk but sober enough to tell him to pull over so I could get out. He did, after a couple blocks, and I got out and immediately broke down in tears. I wish I had the sense to get his information but it all happened so quickly and I wasn’t thinking clearly…I just wanted to get out.
Has this happened to anyone else recently in the area? I wish there was something I could do about it.
Emphases by CASS.
Submitted on 3/20/13 by Anonymous
Our message to this anonymous poster.
Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Submit your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.
If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system:
Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. Recommended tip: Program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.
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.
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.
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.
In December, a Yahoo! Group for DC’s Cleveland Park neighborhood, posted a message detailing a rape allegedly committed by an Uber cab driver a few days prior. According to the 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.
The incident, which has received only limited coverage, occurred the same week as the devastating gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman on board a bus in New Delhi, India. The woman, who was raped by six men over the course of an hour, died two weeks later as result of her injuries. Many have been quick to attribute the New Delhi rape to India’s rape culture. Yet the alleged Uber incident is just one of an estimated 200,000 cases of rape and sexual assault that take place each year in the U.S., a shocking statistic that exposes the scale of our own rape culture.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 American women will be raped in their lifetime. In December, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) announced that reports of sexual assaults in DC have skyrocketed, rising from 174 in 2011 to 263 in 2012. (Although it is important to note that these numbers may hint at increased reporting, which is to be applauded.) Just last week, a DC man was convicted of posing as a taxi driver in order to abduct and rape women passengers over a three-year period. In my time with the grassroots, DC-based anti-street harassment group Collective Action for Safe Spaces, I’ve seen the reality of sexual assault on almost a daily basis. Since it was founded in 2009, CASS has received hundreds of user submissions detailing sexual harassment and assault in the DC area. Often, these submissions incite floods of comments in which readers break their silence and share similar experiences. When photographer Liz Gorman wrote for CASS this past summer on her sexual assault while walking in a “nice” DC neighborhood, women in DC and across the country sent her hundreds of emails and messages in which they shared their own stories of assault. Later this summer, a woman identified as “Salma” wrote to CASS that reading other women’s stories of sexual assault empowered her to chase after her attacker when she was groped on the escalator at DC’s Union Station metro.
What options are left for women when neither walking, using public transportation nor hailing a cab keeps them safe from sexual violence?
These stories underscore the unfortunate reality that the assaults committed by the Uber driver in DC and the six men on the New Delhi bus are not isolated events, neither in DC nor New Delhi. Rather, these cases highlight the high cost women pay when faced with a lack of safe options for travel. The past six months alone saw frightening examples of the threats women face to their safety while traveling. In September, a man threatened to kill a woman after she turned down his advances on the Los Angeles subway. In October, a bystander caught on camera a man sexually assaulting a female subway passenger. Even amid these cases, experts say sexual harassment and assault on mass transit systems are overwhelmingly unreported and generally pass under the radar of police.
As I’ve seen at CASS, when women report sexual harassment or assault while walking, many suggest taking the bus or train. When women report sexual assault aboard buses, many suggest calling a cab service. So what options are left for women and other vulnerable individuals when neither walking, using public transportation nor hailing a cab keeps them safe from sexual violence?
Luckily, there are solutions. CASS has been raising funds for over a year to secure funding to implement RightRides DC, a program which would provide free and safe late-night car rides every Friday and Saturday for women and LGBTQ folks. The program, which currently operates in New York City, was founded in 2004 in response to an increase in local late-night sexual assaults on women. In the last nine years, it has provided safe rides home for over 5,000 women and LGBTQ folks in New York City, including 1,000 people in 2011 alone. Driving teams consist of a driver and navigator, one of whom is always female. The program receives an average of 30-50 requests for rides home every weekend, casting it as a clear solution to a strong need for safe and trusted transportation. RightRide’s success is also evident in its plethora of awards and honors, including a Union Square Award for its efforts to improve the city, a Susan B. Anthony award for excellence in furthering women’s equality, and a Mayoral Proclamation, “RightRides for Women’s Safety Day” from Mayor Bloomberg.
The RightRides’ motto, “Because getting home safely shouldn’t be a luxury,” couldn’t be more true today. RightRides DC would offer the kind of positive, proactive response to sexual violence desperately needed in our nation’s capital. As Alexis Marbach recently wrote, the recent high-profile cases of sexual assault offer the chance to garner momentum to support solutions to preventing violence against women. It’s time we got to work.