Uber’s Internal Study Reports 3,045 Sexual Assaults in 2018

Supermajority Education Fund

December 19, 2019

The ride-share juggernaut Uber released its first study reviewing their service’s safety, only to find that 3,045 sexual assaults were reported during rides taken in 2018 in the United States. Drivers reported assaults at nearly the same rate as riders.

“The numbers are jarring and hard to digest,” Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West told The New York Times. “What it says is that Uber is a reflection of the society it serves.”

The study detailed three categories of assaults: motor vehicle fatalities, fatal physical assault and sexual assault. Sexual assault is further divided into five subcategories: non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, attempted non-consensual penetration, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part, and non-consensual sexual penetration.

“People have a right to know about the safety records of the companies and organizations they rely on every day,” the report’s executive summary states. “And we believe that publishing this data will help us develop best practices that will prevent serious safety incidents from occurring in the first place.” 

In 2017, there were 2,936 reports of sexual assault, including 229 reports of “non-consensual sexual penetration” compared to 235 reports in 2018. The study pointed out that these incidents of “non-consensual sexual penetration” represented 0.00002% of total trips in both years measured.

The report states that the first half of 2019 could reflect a 17-20% decline in sexual assaults  compared to Uber’s 2018 rates. However, the company is prepared for an increase in reporting going forward as the company’s sexual assault reporting initiatives are rolled out. 

There aren’t great comparable figures, according to reporting by The New York Times and NPR, as Uber is such a huge operator in the transportation space; Uber operated 1.3 billion rides in America in 2018. In a letter published in the beginning of the study, West (Uber’s chief legal counsel) pointed out that the New York Police Department received 1,125 complaints of similar sexual offenses for the city’s transit system during the years covered in Uber’s report. Despite the lack of tracking for similar offenses, Uber isn’t the only ride-sharing app under fire for its response to sexual assault: Nineteen women sued Lyft this week accusing the Uber competitor of failing to enact basic safety guidelines that will prevent assault.

However, as NPR’s Shannon Bond pointed out, Uber’s breakdown of the different types of sexual assault don’t include all types of misconduct. Masturbation and verbal threats, for example, are missing from the report, according to Boyd.  

By 2020, Uber announced, it will partner with RAINN to establish “a dedicated survivor hotline” for support and “expand sexual misconduct and assault education to all U.S. drivers.” Uber also plans to release a similar safety report every two years.

Read the full report here.