Unsafe Cabs in the news again

Hello again

After a surge of activity in January, Unsafe Cabs lost momentum and couldn’t get the kind of traction and volunteer base it needed to operate. Unfortunately, the site is still very relevant and will provide a much-needed resource for women and other people who feel unsafe in cabs because of driver conduct.

John Silvester’s crime report in The Age on Saturday describes a toxic culture in which women are not only experiencing assault at the hands of taxi drivers but then often don’t report, fearing they will be disbelieved or blamed. This follow up piece by Alana Schetzer profiles Unsafe Cabs as a grassroots initiative created to help people out with options and a safe space to share their stories.

I must repeat, and refer you back to the mission statement, that Unsafe Cabs has nothing but the highest respect and gratitude to the large majority of drivers who work hard to provide safe, friendly and efficient services to passengers. The taxi industry has its own structural problems that negatively impact drivers, and of course, drivers are not always safe due to the conduct of passengers. This site will not tolerate sweeping generalisations about all drivers, racism (implied or otherwise), or victim blaming of passengers who are assaulted or harassed by drivers.

That said, I think we can create something valuable in terms of providing resources and support for those who experience unsafe cabs. I see it as an opportunity to share experiences (both positive and negative), offer advice, and point out the options available to victims of assault, harassment, abuse or unwanted advances from drivers. Unsafe Cabs would like to build relationships with the Victorian Taxi Directorate, Consumer Affairs, the Public Transport Users Association, Victoria Police, community legal services, feminist organisations, disability advocates, and the various taxi companies servicing Melbourne (and possibly beyond). That should get us off to a good start. If you are involved with any of these bodies and want to become a supporter or ally, I’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to help out with researching, writing copy, website administration or community outreach and relationship-building, I’d be grateful for your ideas and assistance. This is a voluntary project with no funding or political affiliations and the current membership is me. I’m just learning all about this industry myself, and making connections as I go. Thank you to the people who’ve already contacted me and offered their support or help. To those who suggested a PayPal button for donations, that is underway. I reckon we can do a good thing here, at a very basic level, to reassure victims that they’re not alone, that this is not okay, and that they have options.

Karen

Unsafe Cabs in Clayton

Sarah, 19, booked a taxi through 13CABS. The cab picked her up at midnight from Clayton, for a 6km trip to a friend’s party in Huntingdale, but stopped a few streets short of the destination.

Sarah said the driver repeatedly propositioned her and “refused to take no for an answer”.

She eventually got out of the cab and complained the following day to 13CABS who, she said, ignored her complaint.

Sarah told her story to 3AW on Monday, after which 13CABS took action.

 

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/taxi-drivers-sex-demands-terrify-teen-passenger-20130108-2cdru.html

Unsafe Cabs in Geelong

*TRIGGER WARNING*

The Geelong Advertiser reported in August 2012 the case of a 17 year old who was assaulted by a taxi driver. After she had got out of the cab, the driver walked around towards her, grabbed her around the waist and tried to kiss her. The young woman pushed him away and escaped. The man’s lawyer said ‘his client’s actions were simply a clumsy attempt to make an approach to a young woman’. The police called it sexual assault. He was convicted.

 

Police prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Scott Bell, said Hussain had shown no remorse for his offending.

“The community expects that when people are travelling in taxis, especially 17-year-old children, they are safe from sexual assault,” he said.

“That is the reason people take taxis, but in this case it has resulted in the victim being assaulted by the driver.”

Hussain was convicted of indecent assault, fined $2500 and placed on the sex offenders register for eight years.

http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2012/11/29/355762_news.html

Unsafe Cabs in LA

*TRIGGER WARNING*

This story from the LA Times reports a taxi driver suspended over sexually assaulting a passenger. It’s pertinent to note how Manhattan Beach detective Michael Rosebberger explains the driver’s predatory techniques: he would open the front door of his cab for women so they would sit in the front seat and he could more easily assault them. Here in Australia, it’s common for passengers to take the front seat but regardless of where you’re sitting, a cab becomes unsafe because of the driver’s conduct. The article also addresses some of the benefits of making formal complaints.

“The victim did not initially report the crime until she saw a news report of a similar offense occurring in Redondo Beach,” Rosenberger said.

News of Shenouda’s arrest prompted other women to come forward with information.

Rosenberger said Shenouda would offer rides to women who were walking in the evening. He would open the front passenger door so they would sit up front with him, making it easier to assault them, he said.”

 

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/12/taxi-driver-suspected-of-sexual-assault-identified.html

http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Taxi-driver-charged-with-sex-assault/2007/06/19/1182019101418.html

Unsafe Cabs in Bendigo

*TRIGGER WARNING*

In October 2012, The Age reported a Bendigo driver had been charged with rape and indecent assault. The driver put a hat over the taxi’s video camera before the assault occurred.

 

The court heard during the bail application on Monday that Byrnes placed a hat over the taxi’s video camera during part of the alleged sexual assault.

Senior Constable Robert Goodman told the court Byrnes, a taxi driver of three weeks, tried to touch the woman several times while driving, before digitally penetrating her.

Police allege Byrnes parked in Kangaroo Flat and put his hat over the car’s camera before taking the woman from the vehicle and raping her.”

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/taxi-driver-charged-over-sex-assaults-20121025-2875q.html#ixzz2HS1igbDh

Unsafe Cabs in WA

WA Today reported that in Perth alone, 11 taxi drivers were convicted of sexual assaults in 2011. By August 2012, there were already 10 Perth drivers whose licenses had been cancelled after allegations of sexual assault.

 

Kym Daffen, a psychologist from Midland Women’s Health Care Place said many of her female friends no longer used taxis as a form of transport because of the reports of sexual assaults.

She recommended women not get into a taxi if they had been drinking alcohol.

“If it is happening so often, it seems the drivers are being opportunistic and if you are intoxicated, that’s really dangerous,” Ms Daffen said.

She said women should have a plan when they were having a night out that might involve catching a taxi.

Ms Daffen advised taking a photo of a taxi driver’s identification card and sending it through to a friend or phoning someone when getting into a taxi to let them know how far you are away.

“Stick to that plan and watch out for your girlfriends. If you do hop into a taxi after drinking, make sure you have a friend with you,” she said.”

http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/11-taxi-drivers-banned-over-sexual-assaults-20120810-23zgj.html#ixzz2HS1407Mc

Mission Statement (and hi!)

Unsafe Cabs hopes to provide resources, support and information for those who want to help make travelling in cabs safer for women. Unsafe Cabs asserts that our public spaces belong to women too, and too many of us have been propositioned, threatened, harassed or assaulted by taxi drivers when travelling alone. The idea is that together we build a one-stop resource with links to the appropriate organisations and advice about how to proceed if you wish to make a complaint. These processes vary from state to state and we’ll try to account for that too.

We thought a good start would involve publishing clear guidelines on the rights and responsibilities of passengers, the rights and responsibilities of drivers, and the options you have when you feel your rights have been overlooked or abused by a cab driver. We can hopefully provide directions for how to make complaints to a) the cab company, b) the appropriate public transport directorates or consumer groups, c) the police and/or d) community legal services if you want to take further action in court.

Our hope is that sharing and focusing this information in one place will empower women and remind them that they’re not alone, give them the facts they need to take it further, and create a broad base of pressure on taxi providers to crack down on this behaviour in the industry. We’ll also connect with other organisations and movements like SlutWalk, Reclaim the Night, Hollaback Melbourne and Melbourne Feminist Action, to share and access other ideas.

To be absolutely clear, Unsafe Cabs does not seek to imply that only women feel unsafe in cabs. Obviously, many people (including queer and trans folk, people of colour, people of disability, the elderly and many other groups) feel unsafe in cabs and experience ill treatment at the hands of drivers who abuse their rights. Unsafe Cabs hopes to be attentive to these issues while focusing on the experiences of women, and creating a safe space for women to seek support and assistance. Hate speech, triggering language and derailing of women’s concerns will not be tolerated here.

A further point of clarification that matters a great deal is the assertion that Unsafe Cabs in no way wants to demonise all cab drivers. It’s a difficult and systemically unfair industry to work in, and drivers are often themselves working in conditions of heightened danger and risk of abuse and attack. We take that seriously, and also want to reiterate how many good men and women work as taxi drivers and acquit themselves every day with integrity, fairness, kindness and care. Driving taxis can be a lifeline for many, helping to establish whole families, paying for further education, and breaking out of poverty cycles. It’s a profession that many take seriously and with good reason – getting people where they need to go safely and swiftly is a fine aim, and we all know how reassuring and cheering it is to find yourself in a clean cab with a friendly, efficient driver. So likewise, Unsafe Cabs will not tolerate hate speech or offensive generalisations about cab drivers, no matter how angry or upset your experiences have made you.

That said, this should be a place with one broad aim – making cabs safer. We’ll have guest posts from different commentators and experts, and we’ll post advice, strategies and tips for making your taxi travel safer and less scary. Hopefully by communicating these fears and solutions with one another we’ll go some way to connecting women through their experiences and making you feel less alone.

Karen x