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More than 100 Uber drivers accused of sexual assault, abuse

Posted at 7:16 AM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 07:16:42-04

NEW YORK (CNN) - Uber advertises itself as a safe ride home, but a CNN investigation found more than 100 drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the last four years.

"Anxiety and depression" is what one victim said she feels. 

Like many victims she also feels shame, hasn't told her children, is trying to protect her own privacy but still wants every woman to know what she says happened to her when she began feeling intoxicated at a Miami area bar, sought a safe ride home and used the convenient Uber app to summon a ride.

"And I don't remember anything until the next morning," she said. "The next morning, I woke up, and both my pants and my underwear were on the floor." 

Evidence pointed to assault. 

Her Uber driver, Nimer Abdallah, is charged with felony sexual battery. He has pled not guilty and is awaiting trial. 

She is suing the company that promised her a safe ride home.

A CNN investigation has uncovered dozens of cases like hers.

None of the information comes from Uber, which did not provide CNN numbers on how many of its drivers have been accused of sexual assaults.

The company said it is working through data.

Instead, CNN scoured public records, police reports, civil and criminal court cases, and talked with a dozen attorneys representing victims.

CNN documented at least 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years.  

At least 31 of those drivers have been convicted on charges ranging from battery to rape.

Dozens of criminal and civil cases are pending.

Uber is by far the largest ride share company, with 15 million rides per day worldwide.

While hard to compare directly, the smaller ride share company Lyft, with 1 million rides per day in the US and Canada, is also dealing with sexual assaults by its drivers.

A similar CNN review found 18 cases of Lyft drivers accused. Four drivers have been convicted, and a dozen criminal and civil cases are pending. 

Lyft said, "The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority," and the company said it has "worked hard to design policies and features that protect our community."

Many of the cases fit a pattern like this one, when a woman was escorted out of a bar in Long Beach, CA, and got into the backseat of an Uber.

The individual reports from across the country are horrific.

In San Diego, an Uber driver pled guilty to raping one passenger and sexually assaulting at least nine other women in a serial rape case that sent him to prison for 80 years.

In northern Ohio, an Uber driver pled guilty to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, forcing a young passenger to perform a sex act on him.

In Fort Worth, TX, an Uber driver allegedly kidnapped an elderly passenger, driving her to a wooded area where, according to the police report, he raped and beat her. He has not entered a plea.

Victims have been kidnapped, raped and trapped in cars with electronic locks.

One victim told police she was forced to drink her driver's urine.

Multiple experts - police, lawyers and prosecutors, said the actual number of Uber drivers accused is much higher than 103. 

Either the crimes aren't reported, there isn't enough evidence to prosecute, or Uber quietly settles the matter before a civil case can even be filed. 

Uber first agreed to then canceled an interview with CNN about the story, and instead provided a statement about safety updates the company has made since CNN first starting asking about the pattern of sexual assaults months ago, "including an emergency button, driver screening improvements, and the addition of the former Secretary of Homeland Security to head up Uber's safety advisory board."

The company insists it's "putting safety at the core of everything we do."

"Uber has done a miraculous job of keeping this story quiet," said lawyer Jeanne Christensen, who has been suing uber on behalf of victims since 2015. 

Uber, she said, settles cases and demands silence from all parties - non-disclosure agreements in exchange for a settlement.

She can't say how many cases her firm has handled because of confidentiality agreements.

In addition to money, Christensen's class action lawsuit against Uber seeks more thorough screening of drivers.

You can become a driver for Uber completely online. Uber does its own background checks and has fought requiring background checks that involve fingerprints. Critics, including government regulators, said the company needs to do much more to make sure its riders are safe.   

Uber announced they are implementing new changes, like rerunning background checks for its drivers at least once a year. 

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