Rape and sexual assault are a horrifying reality of the ride sharing business. Between December 2012 and August 2015, Uber saw anywhere between a 170 (if you believe the company) and a few thousand (if you trust screengrabs leaked by a customer service rep) instances of sexual assault reported by customers. That doesn’t even take into consideration the disgusting trend of men posing as Uber and Lyft drivers to lure passengers into cars. (Always check those license plates!)
One Lyft driver from Dallas, Texas named Tro’Juan Henderson went viral over the weekend with a video explaining why he won’t drive intoxicated women home alone. It’s not because of a fear of vomit in his car, and it’s not related to any of that Mike Pence “Billy Graham rule” nonsense. It’s because sexual assault doesn’t exist just between the assaulter and a victim. The culture that allows this kind of behavior to be excused or ignored needs to be addressed.
— Tro’juan Henderson (@Trojuan_) April 13, 2017
In the video, Henderson describes the scene of two women who called a Lyft for their friend, who was intoxicated to the point of being unconscious, or at least not being able to walk by herself. The women put her in the car and gave her apartment key to Henderson, asking him to make sure she got home safe. He refused, but offered to give them a discounted ride back to the bar if they would accompany her. They didn’t want to leave, so Tro’Juan cancelled the ride.
As he sees it, he’s not the threat, but the threat of assault is very real, and these women are perpetuating a culture that ignores that fact. He says, “Even though I won’t rape or sexually assault this lady…as a friend, that puts your friend in a possibility of great danger.”
My immediate thought–well, second, right after the fury at these “friends” who would give this woman’s house key to a perfect stranger entrusted with her safety–is that it I wished Tro’Juan had driven her home, because it would be a tragedy if the next Lyft driver weren’t so decent.
And that is the entire point. We all want to rely on the kindness of strangers, but basic human decency (i.e. a lack of sexual assault) shouldn’t be found in shining individuals responsible for the safety of everyone else; it should be the requisite for humanity.
Rape culture relies on people turning a blind eye to the very real dangers women face. That’s how it exists. Hopefully this woman’s friends didn’t put her in the next Lyft by herself; hopefully the lesson sank in that we all play a role, and we all need to be vigilant in fighting the willful ignorance that allows us to view assault as individual, isolated, unlikely incidents. The first step to combating rape culture is to acknowledge that it is an entire culture. This doesn’t mean we need to live in fear, just in awareness.
Henderson also acknowledges that there’s a fine line between awareness and victim-blaming, though.
I guess I was wanting to be mindful of 1. I think we should live in a world where men can hold themselves accountable and not touch women, not sexually harass women, not rape women, not follow women, not street harass women, not do any of these things. However, we don’t live in that perfect world, so women, when you are out–and even brothers, brothers too, us too–please take these safety precautions to protect your friends. If they’re highly intoxicated and you know that they are unconscious, just take the ride with them or something like that. If you’re all out at a bar, walk them to their car, make sure that you ain’t leaving nobody behind.
He told EliteDaily he first became aware of a need to do more than just exist in his knowledge that he wouldn’t hurt anyone, when he needed to act to help others. He recounted an experience he had when working with the National Domestic Violence Hotline in Austin.
I remember going to a workshop and hearing a guy who, after a woman was raped, said, ‘Aye man, boys will be boys.’ Like basically that because we’re men, this is in our nature and we can’t control ourselves. It was a shock. I knew that was wrong. From that point on, I knew I had to be more vocal. Men have to hold themselves more accountable.
Absolutely, men need to be held accountable (and hold themselves accountable) for their actions, and the rest of us need to not ignore their actions and the dangers women face, relying on others to do what’s right while we turn away. It takes all of us to combat rape culture.
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