Warning: This post is about sexual assault and may cause distress for some readers.
Following the sexual assault of a Bondi teenager by an Uber driver at the weekend, Uber has said it cannot provide information on cases involving its Australian drivers.
In the US, the company pledged greater transparency around how many sexual assault cases its drivers were involved in.
This week a 37-year-old Uber driver was charged with sexual intercourse without consent after allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old passenger while she slept.
At 1.30am on Sunday, the man was working when he collected three passengers that booked his service from the city.
The 17-year-old female and her two friends were driven to Bondi where her two friends got out. The teen remained in the vehicle as she was being taken to an address at North Bondi.
It is alleged the driver sexually assaulted the teenager while she was asleep in the back seat of his vehicle. He was arrested on Monday and granted conditional bail to appear in Liverpool Local Court on October 25.
Writing in a May blog post, Uber said it was “turning the lights on” and changing the way it responded to sexual assault and harassment claims.
It said it was committed to “publishing a safety transparency report that will include data on sexual assaults and other incidents that occur on the Uber platform.”
When asked for this data by Mamamia, Uber said this release was related to the US and it doesn’t not have any data or numbers available to share in Australia.
A company spokesperson said Uber were always looking to improve safety and technology has enabled it to bring safety features such as GPS tracking of trips, information about the driver and rider in the vehicle.
They said Uber is serious about its commitment to helping end gender-based violence in its communities.
“We’ve committed to a global, multi-year, multi-million dollar donation to fund partnerships with leading sexual and domestic violence prevention organisations globally to support initiatives and the communities at work,” they said.
Uber said it is also preparing to launch its emergency button feature in Australia. Launched in the US earlier this year, it allows users to directly call emergency services from the Uber app.
Of the Bondi assault, an Uber spokesperson said the incident was “deeply upsetting and has no place anywhere”.
“As soon as we became aware of this report, we immediately removed this driver’s access to the app. We are working closely with the New South Wales Police Force and will continue to support their investigation in any way possible.”
Carolyn Worth, spokesperson for the Centres Against Sexual Assault Forum said Uber needs to ensure its safety features are more well-known to users.
She also advocated for additional features such as cameras in cars, like found in a traditional taxi, and more frequent driver background checks.
Worth said while the reporting of stats would be interesting to see, it wouldn’t tell the whole story.
“It won’t make a lot of difference as what they’ll have is the ones that are reported and we all know one in 10 people report, if that.”
General manager for 1800RESPECT Nicole McMahon echoed that sentiment.
“If you have experienced sexual violence you may find it hard to decide whether or not to report it. You may want the person who did it caught and stopped from doing it again. You might also be worried about how upsetting the reporting process will be. The most important thing is that you make the best decision for you.”
If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.