Partly due to a rise in the number of sexual assaults reported by taxi passengers, on Wednesday, two city council members introduced a bill that would make sexual-assault-prevention training mandatory for yellow cab, green cab, black car, Uber, and Lyft drivers in New York City. Right now, Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) drivers are required to receive sex-trafficking-awareness training, which consists of a video. If enacted, the bill would implement a much broader training program to “inform operators of the causes and types of sexual assault, laws against sexual assault, civil and criminal penalties associated with sexual assault, and how to recognize, respond, prevent, and take positive action against sexual assault.”
In a statement, Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo and Helen Rosenthal, who introduced the bill, cited NYPD statistics showing “an increased number of rape cases that occurred in vehicles-for-hire picking up women late at night outside of Manhattan bars.” They went on, “In a city where nearly 500,000 vehicle-for-hire trips are taken daily by New Yorkers and tourists, we must take proactive measures.” The bill, which is designed to change the culture around sexual assault, is a huge step up from Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s suggestion that women “adopt a buddy system” when taking cabs at night. Instead of shifting the blame onto women, Councilwoman Rosenthal said the bill is “putting people on notice that [sexual assault] is not tolerated.”
Right now, aside from a sex-trafficking-awareness video, it’s not clear whether TLC drivers have any form of sexual-assault-prevention training at all; a spokesperson for the organization told Gothamist that TLC “appreciates the goal of helping our city combat sexual assault” but declined to elaborate on current forms of training, and Uber recently came under fire for its sketchy treatment of sexual-assault claims.
“The ultimate goal is to shift the social norms that perpetuate sexual violence,” said Mary Haviland, executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.