A New York man is claiming an Uber driver sexually assaulted him, which is raising questions about the ride-sharing company's sexual assault policies.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, Uber rider Kevin Ko alleged that his driver forced him to touch his erect penis twice.
"I was sexually assaulted, advanced and forced without consent by the Uber driver to touch his erect genitalia during the ride," Ko wrote in a Facebook post on September 23, according to Gizmodo. "He grabbed my left wrist with physical force, out of nowhere and placed my hand on his genitals — not once, but TWICE."
In a subsequent email to Uber, Ko said the incident escalated from there.
"The first time I yelled, 'what the fuck!' in a disgusted and blatant tone," he wrote, according to Gizmodo. "I was scared, I didn't know who he was or what he was capable of. Afterwards, just a short moment after, for the second time he has the audacity to grab my wrist again to bring my hands near his genitalia."
Eventually, Ko jumped out of the Uber. However, that wasn't the end of his disturbing story.
Ko said he contacted Uber's Critical Safety Response Line, which connects riders to an Uber representative. He claimed the representative laughed at least three times as he recounted the encounter and refused to transfer him to a manager.
The representative's alleged response re-raises questions about how Uber handles sexual assault — and if their policies are sufficient enough to protect customers.
An Uber spokesperson told Revelist that the driver has been banned from the ride-sharing platform because he violated the company's community guidelines. However, when asked if Uber drivers undergo background checks, the spokesperson told Revelist that the company doesn't have a universal background check policy.
Instead, the company follows the policies set forth in each individual state. Uber drivers are held to a different standard in New York than in California because the state's policies for commercial drivers are different.
These varied background policies may have a detrimental consequence for Uber's riders, especially women.
In the past two months, Who's Driving You, an organization that tracks criminal behavior by Uber and Lyft drivers, has found at least 15 instances of sexual assault committed by Uber drivers. The actual statistics of how many people are sexually assaulted by Uber drivers is unclear.
A March BuzzFeed News investigation found that there's been at least 170 claims of sexual assault reported to Uber between December 2012 and August 2015. In fact, two women, identified as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, have filed a suit against Uber that claims the service neglects its female customers' safety.
Both women allege that they were assaulted by Uber drivers in the 52-page complaint filed in the US District Court of San Francisco.
The lawsuit alleges that Uber's marketing itself as the "best option for a safe ride home after a night of drinking," but doesn't actually protect women who are intoxicated.
"What Uber has not shared with riders is that making the choice to hail a ride after drinking also puts those same riders in peril from the Uber drivers themselves," the complaint reads. "By marketing heavily toward young women who have been drinking, while claiming that rider safety is its #1 priority, Uber is instead putting these women at risk."
The lawyers for Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, who haven't responded to Revelist's request for comment, said in the complaint that Uber's "negligence" and "fraud" led to the sexual assault of both women.
The alleged victims want Uber to evoke specific safety measures that will protect women in the future, including requiring drivers to install GPS tracking systems in their cars, disabling child-lock on doors, and ensuring Uber uses a finger-print system when doing background checks on drivers.
In the meantime, Ko's case is still being resolved. The New York Police Department has not made an arrest at this time.