Uber commended for new safety report
A jarring 5,981 cases of alleged sexual assault were reported by riders and drivers between 2017 and 2018.
Lawmakers, reporters and anti-sexual violence organizations commended Uber for releasing a first-of-its-kind safety report Thursday detailing statistics behind accidents, physical assault and sexual assault experienced by drivers and riders.
The report states that while 99.9 percent of more than 2 billion trips completed between 2017 and 2018 were completed "without any safety-related issue at all," Uber received a jarring total of 5,981 sexual assault cases during that time period, including hundreds of alleged rape reports. The company said it is taking steps to stop such violence from continuing.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and introduced the "Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act," said in a Friday statement that he is "glad Uber finally agreed to release this information."
"That said, merely releasing this information will not be enough. I will continue to push Uber and all other companies and agencies whose employees and customers are at risk of sexual assault and harassment to establish formal policies, training and reporting structures. As a country, we must ensure safety is a priority, and make it clear that sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated anywhere, no matter where it occurs," he added.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Press Secretary Erinn Robinson said in a statement to FOX Business that the anti-sexual violence organization appreciates Uber's transparency and willingness to release data on sexual violence.
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"This is an issue that affects every institution in America, and understanding the problem is an important step in the effort to solve it. We’d love to see organizations in every industry, including educational institutions, make a similar effort to track and analyze sexual misconduct within their communities," Robinson said.
Of the total number of sexual assault cases reported, riders accounted for 45 percent of the perpetrating -- or accused -- party while drivers made up 54 percent and a third party made up 1 percent. In other words: Drivers reported riders for alleged sexual assault in nearly half the total cases reviewed by Uber.
To put the number of sexual assault reports into perspective, Uber noted in its report that "no community is immune" to sexual assault, adding, "There were approximately 20,500 instances of unwanted sexual contact in 2018 in the military, according to the US Department of Justice’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military."
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) called the report "alarming."
"Share economy corporations, such as Uber, must make personal safety their highest priority. The report is more than a concern, it is alarming. It is an issue that must be addressed immediately," Blackburn told FOX Business.
Uber chief legal officer Tony West said in a Thursday press release that the report allows the rideshare app to "begin to provide clarity" on sexual violence, which "touches every corner of society."
The report also noted that Uber has made significant progress in terms of background checks for its drivers.
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"Uber’s background-check process is very rigorous. During 2017 and 2018, more than  million prospective drivers did not make it through Uber’s screening process. ... Uber will disqualify individuals with any felony convictions in the last 7 years," the report states.
Others are generally pleased with the company's willingness to publish the report in the first place, saying it is a step in the right direction for stronger transparency.
Cindy Southworth, executive vice president of anti-domestic violence organization National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDC) commended Uber for the report, saying in a statement "Sexual assault is vastly underreported, and this is a groundbreaking step in raising awareness and encouraging survivors to share their stories."
"Uber has been a longtime partner in standing against sexual assault – not just through accountability and transparency, but also by supporting survivors, eliminating barriers to reporting, and taking steps to prevent violence and harassment," Southworth continued.
Massachusetts 2020 congressional candidate Brianna Wu said in a Thursday tweet that she is "glad to see Uber" release data on sexual assault to the public.
"Most tech companies would bury difficult information like they do with the number of women they hire for engineering roles," she added.
The rideshare giant's report was released amid growing safety concerns after incidents of victims getting in the wrong cars or getting in the right cars and being kidnapped by drivers.
Uber and its largest rideshare competitor, Lyft, did not appear as part of a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on safety in October, which sparked backlash from lawmakers.
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"Their failure to appear at this hearing is a telling sign that they would rather suffer a public lashing than answer questions on the record about their operations," DeFazio said in his prepared remarks at the Oct. 16 hearing.
Sens. John Thune, Roger Wicker, Roy Blunt and Deb Fischer did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
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