Image Description: Uber app on cellphone

Yesterday, the popular app-based rideshare platform Uber released a first-of-its-kind report on public safety. The report detailed the most severe safety incidents (sexual assault, motor vehicle fatalities and fatal physical assaults) that are reported in connection with using the Uber app. Their goal is to get more companies to do the same, and help raise these issues higher in the corporate consciousness.

We collaborated with our partners at RALIANCE and NSVRC to create the taxonomy on which this report was based. The report, the first of its kind for ridesharing, covers 2017 and 2018, a timeframe in which the Uber app connected more than 2 billion trips—more than 3 million rides a day, or about 46 rides per second.

For two years, CALCASA, along with a number of national organizations such as NO MORE, Women of Color Network, Inc., Casa de Esperanza, AVP, have worked closely with Uber to support their commitment to safety and sexual assault prevention, and wanted to highlight a number of Uber’s safety improvements and actions to-date and planned, including:

Adding an In-App Emergency Button and investing in new technology, RideSense, that allows Uber to check in with drivers and riders if a long unexpected stop is detected during a trip.

  • Enhancing background checks to continuously look for new criminal offenses.
  • Finding a way to share the names of drivers who have been banned from the platform with other ridesharing companies.
  • Partnering with RAINN and other anti-sexual violence organizations to expand sexual misconduct and assault education to all US drivers.
  •  Rolling out new features that will allow riders to verify their driver with a secure PIN code, send a text message directly to 911 operators, and report safety incidents to Uber before their trip is even over.

Uber’s report on public safety sets a new bar on corporate responsibility that should serve as a model for other corporations in tech, transportation, and beyond. We have never seen a company disclose this level of information proactively before, and that in itself is a big step forward toward creating a better society free from sexual violence. We also know that sexual violence is NOT just an Uber problem – it is a problem that is taking place in every form of industry, and companies are just not telling us about it. Uber is changing that.

Importantly, while the media coverage of the issue of sexual assault related to Uber has almost entirely portrayed drivers as the alleged perpetrators, Uber’s data shows that drivers report assaults at roughly the same rate as riders across the five most serious categories of sexual assault. This data provides a really good opportunity to talk about how sexual violence is a far-reaching, societal problem, and often challenges the assumptions we have about who is, and isn’t, a victim of sexual assault.

It is crucial to note that while these numbers are already upsetting, we expect that data on violence occurrences will increase in the future, which is actually a good thing. This means that victims have more confidence that the company will take the incident seriously and do something about it – and a jump in reporting is one of the first indicators of accountability. We would love to see more companies do what Uber is leading on: bringing sexual violence into the light, counting it consistently, and sharing the data found with the public. This is the only way we can have an honest conversation about this problem, share best practices for prevention, and make travel safer for everyone.

On behalf of CALCASA, we commend Uber for taking this step, look forward to seeing other industry leaders follow suit, and remain committed to continuing the fight against sexual violence wherever it may occur.

From Left: John L. Finley Public Policy Associate, Krista Niemczyk Public Policy Manager of The Partnership, Melodie Kruspodin, Prevention & Policy Director of Peace Over Violence, Assemblymember Shirley Weber, and Antonio Villaraigosa,former Assembly Speaker and Mayor of Los Angeles

Yesterday, CALCASA joined the Partnership in testifying before the Assembly Budget Committee in support of a $50 million ongoing investment to support domestic and sexual violence prevention programs in California.  We made the case for prevention by describing the tremendous costs already associated with sexual violence and reiterated our strong belief that California can be a leader in preventing abuse before it ever happens.

Investing in prevention makes sense as a wise long-term use of general fund dollars, and our local programs and communities are ready and willing to expand their prevention work if given the financial support from the State to do so. While we continue to advocate for an investment in prevention, it’s critical that we not go backwards on our funding of services, which is why the request also includes a reauthorization of funding to rape crisis centers.  Sexual assault is a serious issue in California, and if our budget is a reflection of our state’s values, then investing in the prevention of sexual assault must be a top priority.

 

For more information on our 2019 Campaign visit: calcasa.org/preventionworks

On February 12, 2019, CALCASA and the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence hosted an informational briefing at the State Capitol on the promise and impact of domestic violence and sexual violence prevention in California. Recognizing Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention, “Orange Day at the Capitol” featured CALCASA’s Public Policy Associate John L. Finley and the Partnership’s Policy Manager Krista Niemcyzk serving as co-moderators for a series of engaging panel on youth-led, community-level and statewide prevention efforts, and the need for California to commit to a sustained and significant investment in prevention.

One of the panels featured CALCASA’s Director of Prevention David Lee, who spoke about the high cost of sexual violence in California (referring to CALCASA’s 2018 report The Cost and Consequences of Sexual Violence in California) and the extraordinary impacts of prevention work on reducing violence throughout the state.  Importantly, CALCASA noted that there are over 10,000 public schools in the State of California, and funded prevention programs are only reaching a small handful of those.  Additionally, Richard Thomason of the Blue Shield of California Foundation highlighted the necessity of philanthropy leading the movement towards investing in prevention, and how to best support the efforts that are already taking place in communities to prevent sexual violence and relationship abuse.

This briefing clearly asserted to a packed audience at the California State Capitol that not only is prevention possible, but prevention is necessary, and #PreventionWorks.  We are excited to continue the conversation by fiercely advocating for a $50 million ongoing investment in prevention from the California state budget.

We are live with California Partnership to End Domestic Violence at the State Capitol for a briefing on the promise and impact of domestic violence and sexual violence prevention in California. #preventionacrossCA

Posted by California Coalition Against Sexual Assault on Tuesday, February 12, 2019

 

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 Unfortunately, the story going around is fake news, and it has created a lot of unnecessary panic. The definitions of sexual assault and domestic violence have NOT changed, and the current Presidential Administration would not have the authority to change them.
What has happened is that the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) changed the descriptions of domestic violence and sexual assault on their website in April 2018.  Prior to that, along with resources and hotline information, the website included some more detailed, advocacy-based descriptions of sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking for the general public. When OVW updated their website in April, those advocacy-based descriptions were removed and replaced with the current statutory definitions that are in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  These definitions have existed since the original VAWA passed in 1994, and for as long as the DOJ has been making VAWA grants, they have been constrained by these legal definitions. The entire executive branch is also bound by the language of the statute (34 U.S.C. 12991) defining domestic violence and sexual assault, which can only be amended by Congress. Anything else that was on there was not actually legally binding.
These definitions have not changed – they are the statutory definitions that have been in place since 1994.
If you have any questions please contact us at [email protected]

Thursday, April 5, our CEO Sandra Henriquez and I appeared before the California State Senate Budget Subcommittee on State Administration to testify in support of our $50 million budget ask to invest in prevention strategies and intervention services to end sexual and domestic violence in California.  Joined by Krista Niemcyzk of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Beth Hassett of WEAVE, and Tracy Lamb of NEWS, we highlighted revelations from our newly issued report The Cost and Consequences of Sexual Violence in California, and made the case in front of our state legislature for increasing California’s commitment to survivors.  Our legislative champions, Senator Jim Beall of Santa Clara County and Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio of Los Angeles County, emphasized not only how sexual and domestic violence leave lifelong scars on survivors that require a major investment to heal, but also highlighted the tremendous financial burdens stemming from violence that are already being placed on Californians now.  Sexual violence alone costs the state $140 billion, as compared to an investment from the California general fund of only $45,000 to our local rape crisis programs. Our representatives in Sacramento now understand that must change, with Senator Richard Roth, chair of the Budget Subcommittee on State Administration, declaring that investing in prevention and intervention services can and should be a top priority for the State of California.

Visit our webpage to find out more: http://www.calcasa.org/50toendsvdv/

CALCASA Testifies for $50 Million to End Sexual and Domestic Violence