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Psychotherapist and sex crimes expert offers tips as new concerns arise about rideshare safety

Posted at 11:42 PM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-07 02:42:52-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) —
In a city like Las Vegas with so many bars, night clubs and attractions along the often-crowded strip; rideshare services are both easy to find and a practical choice.

Rideshare company Uber recently released some surprising numbers. There were nearly 6,000 reports of sexual assault between 2017 and 2018; with drivers reporting assaults nearly as often as riders.

"Just because someone is an Uber driver, or a Lyft driver and they have passed a background check does not mean that they are automatically a safe person."

Psychotherapist and sex crimes expert Alyson Shainker works with both victims and offenders. She said just the concept of ridesharing itself can be appealing to sexual predators looking for victims.

" You are usually dealing with someone who is very vulnerable. They are in your backseat. You are in the driver seat, “said Shainker. “And often times it’s just you and the passenger or alternately you and the driver. And you really are in a very vulnerable place. So, it is definitely a job that could attract sex offenders."

Back in February 13 Investigative reporter Joe Bartels introduced viewers to Doris Peterson. Peterson had been an Uber driver for two years when she says a male passenger, she picked up at a McDonalds near Paradise Road and Twain Avenue groped her and demanded a sex act from her.

"He grabbed my face and started trying to kiss me and that's when the reality of what was happening,” she said. “That I was in a bad situation."

Months later Peterson said that man still hasn't been caught. Uber's competitor Lyft is facing new lawsuits from more than a dozen new alleged sexual assault victims.

While many people rely on ride sharing services when they've had one too many, Shainker said being sober is a huge barrier of protection. And so is not being distracted by phones or other devices.

“How many times do we get into the car and we are in our phones and we are texting and maybe on social media? Pay attention.” she said. “Because if you see that the driver is going the complete opposite of your destination you need to get out of that car!”