Friday, December 18, 2020 Sacramento, CA- The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault raises concerns surrounding the decision to fine Uber $59M for not releasing personally identifiable information of survivors of sexual violence to the California Public Utilities Commission.
We commend the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for taking seriously the need to address sexual assault at the institutional level, and to ensure that all forms of transportation in California are safe for riders and drivers.
Yet we cannot support an action that could intimidate survivors out of coming forward, and will likely discourage companies in the transportation industry and beyond from working to address sexual abuse. By releasing their Safety Report, while maintaining the privacy of every survivor whose story is embedded within it, Uber showed that they understand how important it is to honor the choices of survivors while we strive to tackle the widespread issues of sexual assault, harassment and abuse. Unfortunately, the decision to then lay a hefty fine on Uber will signal to corporations across the country that taking steps to make real, impactful progress on understanding the prevalence of sexual violence in their industry bears a heavy punishment in California, and that they would be better off avoiding the issue altogether. Preventing and ending sexual violence is not the sole purpose of regulators and advocates alone – it is a shared responsibility by each and every one of us, including corporations like Uber with the ability to influence change across their sector. We have found it most useful to support organizations who wish to do this work through a trauma informed lens, rather than penalize them simply for making the attempt.
Further, the inflammatory language and opinions made in the decision itself, including the belief that a victim’s consent to sharing their experience with the CPUC or anybody else is “irrelevant”, does not align with the initial intent of prioritizing the safety of those who experienced sexual violence. We firmly assert that the decision to report an act of sexual abuse- and to whom- must be the decision of the survivor alone.
Respecting the privacy and autonomy of survivors is paramount to our efforts to understand and ultimately end sexual violence. And it will take all of us – survivors, government, corporations, and advocates – working together to establish a new norm of safety and respect for the dignity of all. The first step is to encourage and commend those who wish to make the effort, rather than shame and intimidate them out of stepping up to end sexual violence.
The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault carries more than 40 years of experience leading and mobilizing on behalf of advocates at more than 84 rape crisis centers throughout our great state. We represent a strong network of advocates, crisis professionals, volunteers and community partners that make up California’s Safety Net for survivors of sexual violence, and endeavor to promote the best interests of survivors across communities, institutions, systems, and society. As such, the safety and privacy of survivors continues to be a pillar of our work and the entire movement to end sexual violence worldwide.
Further Media Coverage:
Uber appeals $59 million California fine over sexual assault data request (Reuters – Tina Bellon)
Uber Technologies Inc on Wednesday appealed a $59 million fine by a California regulator in a dispute over whether the company should share detailed information on sexual assault and harassment claims reported on its ride-hailing platform. On Monday, the advocacy group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), appealed the CPUC’s order. “Companies should be commended, not penalized, for their transparency and commitment to protecting survivors,” the non-profit wrote in a public filing.
Uber Appeals California Fine in Sexual Assault, Safety Probe (Bloomberg Law – Joyce E. Cutler and Lizette Chapman)
Uber Technologies Inc. says a California Public Utilities Commission judge’s $59 million fine “sends a dangerous message to anyone who stands up for the privacy and autonomy of sexual assault victims.” The company is appealing an administrative law judge’s order to provide the commission with information on sexual assault and harassment claims or pay the fine. Failing to comply could cost Uber its license to operate in California.