By Jose Martinez
SAN FRANCISCO, California (KPIX) — San Francisco-based rideshare company Lyft is being sued by a Florida woman who says she was sexually assaulted multiple times by one of their drivers.
The victim alleges that she was violently and repeatedly raped by her Lyft driver, resulting in the birth of a child.
“I took a ride thinking I was safe. You see these lights on, and you say your name, and you get in that car thinking that you’re going to be OK, and I trusted that,” said Tabatha Means, the victim.
According to Means, the assault occurred in April 2019, when the driver urged her to sit in front and then started touching her inappropriately. After rejecting his advances, she got out of the car, only for the driver to follow her into her home and rape her.
“I’m very upset with myself for not opening my mouth sooner. Not doing everything in my power to get proper treatment, for the driver for what occurred. I was there. I know what happened,” Means expressed.
For San Francisco resident Aura Barva, security is always at the forefront of her mind when she uses a ride-share app.
“I share my ride information with one of my friends, so they would know where the ride is going, and that gives some peace of mind,” said Barva, who has used Uber and Lyft for over a decade.
Living in San Francisco for more than 10 years, Barva relies on ride-share services at least twice a week to avoid late-night rides on BART or Muni. However, she has noticed a growing concern regarding safety, especially at night.
“You always have that fear that something is going to happen to you, especially at night when you go out. As women, we are more vulnerable than men,” she shared.
The apprehension surrounding ride-share safety has also intensified after means filed the lawsuit against Lyft.
Barva emphasized the need for ride-share companies to enhance their security protocols, including more rigorous background checks and the implementation of safety plans within the cars.
“They need to run better background checks. It’s really important, and also, it wouldn’t hurt anyone to have like a safety plan or something inside of the car. Not only because something can happen with the driver, but if there’s an accident or someone that needs help, maybe it’s connected to 911,” she suggested.
In a statement, Lyft said they do run background checks.
“Before giving a ride on the Lyft platform, all driver-applicants are screened for criminal offenses and driving incidents. Our criminal background checks are provided by a third-party company, and include a social security number trace, a nationwide criminal search, a county court records search, a federal criminal court records search as well as a U.S. Department of Justice 50-state sex offender registry search. In addition, Lyft runs annual criminal background checks on all active drivers.” – Lyft
Lyft has implemented a safety service supported by ADT, allowing riders to connect with an ADT security professional silently or by voice if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They said there is also “Smart Trip Check-in.”
“We monitor for ride irregularities, and in some instances, if we notice a ride that appears to have ended far from the intended destination, been canceled after pickup, gone off-route or stopped for an abnormal amount of time, we reach out to riders and drivers directly. We will ask the rider or driver if they need help, and, if appropriate, connect them to emergency assistance or our own Safety team,” Lyft said.
However, in Tabatha Means’ case, she alleges that Lyft did not provide the expected assistance.
“Lyft wasn’t there like they were supposed to be. All of those safe options were not there. They were not in place, so they don’t know. They were not there,” she stated.
While the lawsuit is ongoing, Barva mentioned that she has to continue using these services to have a bit of comfort when she goes out, always keeping her own safety measures in place.
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