Yesterday, rideshare company Uber introduced several new features to help keep passengers safe. These changes are part of RALIANCE’s work with Uber to help the company better respond to sexual harassment and assault. “Uber recognizes that they have influence with other companies, and they’re trying to use that influence not only to make things better on their platform but because they’re serving people all over the globe,” RALIANCE Chief Public Affairs Officer Kristen Houser told WIRED. These safety features include ways to confirm a driver’s identity and the ability for passengers to text 911 from inside the app. In addition, Uber’s policy on reporting sexual assaults during rides allows the survivor to decide whether they want to report to law enforcement.
Uber’s stance on allowing survivors to decide whether or not to report to law enforcement is survivor-centered and informed by conversations with anti-sexual violence organizations such as RALIANCE and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV). In fact, NAESV has a longstanding policy of not supporting any policies or initiatives that require mandated law enforcement reporting in adult sexual assault cases.
Time and time again, we have seen how mandatory reporting to law enforcement is not effective for survivors. It is far better for victims of sexual assault to give their express consent to be included in law enforcement investigations. Survivors have overwhelmingly expressed concern with the pitfalls of mandatory reporting. In a 2015 survey conducted by NAESV and Know Your IX, a majority of survivors said they should retain the choice about whether and to whom to report.
Through our work with Uber and other corporate partners, RALIANCE has trained staff on how to help victims and survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Forcing traumatized survivors into a criminal process not only discourages participation, but it also signals to sexual assault survivors that their autonomy and consent in decision-making is not important. Companies must implement policies and workplace cultures that support survivors.
The issue of confidentiality is also key. “The cornerstone of rape crisis advocacy is empowering survivors to regain control by making their own decisions following sexual assault,” said NAESV in a statement applauding campus sexual assault legislation that supported survivor choice when reporting. “If a survivor chooses not to report the assault, this choice must be honored and her or his anonymity protected.”
Centering survivors means centering their choice and consent, and we applaud Uber for their purposeful policy that empowers survivors to make choices for themselves.