Ride-Hailing Services: What to Do If You're Sexually Harassed

Here's a safety guide for women who are afraid of being sexually harassed in an Uber or GrabCar.

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Ride-Hailing Services: What to Do If You're Sexually Harassed
Image: Newsweek
Apart from the accessibility of the new LRT lines and cabs, hailing an Uber or GrabCar is becoming a norm for daily commuting. The convenience of booking a ride using a mobile app speaks volumes for people like us who are so accustomed to instant gratification. So you would think that this technology and connectivity would be a safer option in this day and age, especially for women. Sadly, that’s not really the case.

Sexual harassment cases are slowly beginning to surface following the popularity of ride-hailing services. Although more people are now less hesitant to hitch a ride via Uber or Grab, there are still a handful of people who are a bit more weary when it comes to booking a ride. Call it paranoia, but in today’s world where crime is still rampant, we can’t blame people for trying to be more careful.

Image: Giphy
Just last week, a Grab driver had allegedly flashed himself to his female passenger while sending her to a mall in Petaling Jaya. The passenger took it to Twitter to complain how the man gave her “a really creepy vibe”. When she happened to look over at him, to her horror, she noticed his genitals. She was left in the verge of tears and fled the scene the moment she arrived at her destination. She also contacted Grab immediately to make a report.
Here’s the thing, she chose not to make a police report because she felt that the authorities would not believe her claim without solid evidence. She thought that they would ridicule her and “probably won’t do anything”. She was also worried that the man would come after her because he had her home address and contact details, which made her all the more reluctant and helpless.

Grab responded immediately and proceeded to remove the alleged harasser from its system. “Grab as the leading ride-hailing app in the region came about to address two major concerns in the transportation industry – safety for passengers and to improve the welfare of our drivers. Therefore, the safety of all our passengers are of great importance to us and we do not take anything that can potentially jeopardise their safety and their ride experience lightly, hence will do what we can to mitigate the situation,” said Country Head of Grab Malaysia Jaygan Fu in a statement.
Grab also advised its passengers “to exercise their right to safe transport and reach out to us should they come across any situation so we can intervene and take the necessary action”.
However, female passengers are not the only ones who experience sexual harassment as female drivers also face similar instances by male passengers. As reported by Free Malaysia Today, there were cases where the male passenger would ask about the female driver’s personal life. Another female driver told FMT that there was once a male passenger who refused to leave her car until she gave him her phone number.
Due to such cases that threaten the safety of both female passengers and drivers, Grab Malaysia decided to implement additional safety measures earlier this year. One of them was installing CCTV cameras in 100 selected vehicles driven by women, a first time by Grab in the region. This will allow on-the-job safety as well as solid evidence in the event of conflicts between the driver and passenger.
Some other initiatives executed by Grab Malaysia include: 
  • Stringent background screenings: All GrabCar drivers go through detailed background checks and briefing sessions on proper SOPs and code of conduct prior to being a GrabCar driver.
  • “Share-my-ride”: Passengers can share their ride on social media so family and friends can track their journey in real time and know their whereabouts.
  • PDRM button: In the event of any emergency or if drivers observe any disturbance, they can connect to the nearest police station with a click of the button.
  • 24/7 customer service support: Catering to both passengers and drivers, they can contact the customer service department for assistance or to report any incident. All reports will be investigated and if required, action will be taken by Grab.
  • Dual payment option: This added convenience allows GrabCar passengers in Malaysia to pay via credit card, eliminating the need to carry ample cash in-hand to pay for their ride. It also reduces the likelihood of passengers rummaging through their bag or wallet for money and risk losing or dropping their belongings.

Image: Giphy
So what should you do when you’re caught in a situation like this and you’re stuck in the car with nowhere to run?
If he attempts to make inappropriate comments or touch you at any point during the ride, keep your mobile phone in hand and try your best to report the matter to the company immediately. If you’re fast enough, contact the company’s helpline because they are able to contact the driver instantly and demand him to stop all forms of communication with you.
If he drives you to a place that is not your intended destination, once again, ask to get off the car and call someone for help. If the man refuses to let you go, wind down the window and scream if you have to. Ladies, the man up there didn’t give you a high-pitch voice for no reason! Contact the police immediately and give them all the details you have of the driver. You can also find a way to send the details to a family member or friend and get them to call the police.
If he stalks you after the ride by sending text messages or calling you, or even creepier, waiting outside your house, report this to the company right away via the app, email or social media. These companies will make sure to review and respond as soon as possible.
You don’t really have to worry too much about having your personal information compromised after the ride. According to Grab, your contact details are kept strictly confidential within the company’s network. Your phone number will only be available during the booking process for easier communication if necessary. Once your ride is over, your contact information is no longer accessible.
Image: Giphy
Will it make a difference if I make a police report?
The answer is YES. No matter how ridiculous or paranoid you think you may sound, it is crucial to have your encounter recorded in a written statement kept within police records. According to the Women’s Aid Organisation Malaysia, there are several things you should know when you report a crime: 
  • You can write the police report in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Tamil or Mandarin. If you’re not able to do so, get help from your family, friends or the police.
  • In the police report, state the exact date, time and place that the incident happened.
  • Try your best to describe in detail what happened and who the offender was.
  • The Investigating Officer will interview you for a statement and then begin investigation.
  • If the police find a suspect, they will contact you. You will then have to go to the police station to identify the offender.
  • The offender is then charged for the crime and his case will be heard in court.

Having said all that, if you still feel apprehensive about booking a ride-hailing service, there is a new service in Malaysia known as Riding Pink that is actually a service entirely by women for women. It is the first ever women-only transportation platform in the country!

Image: Motion Digest
Founded by Denise Tan, the idea behind Riding Pink is to give women a safe alternative to compliment other ride sharing apps and public transport as well as to help create opportunities for women who find it hard to return to the workforce after a long hiatus.
“Although we cannot entirely guarantee the safety and security of our women, we hope that by linking female drivers with female passengers, we will reduce cases of harassment and at least provide both peace and comfort to our riders and drivers,” said Tan. She also agrees that women should not be afraid to stand up for themselves, voice out and take the necessary step whenever they feel wrongfully treated or harassed.
So don’t let the bad apples spoil the entire basket for you. Ride-hailing services exist for everyone to enjoy at our own convenience, not just expense. As long as you have the safety precautions and appropriate know-how in-hand, you have nothing to worry about. Stay safe, ladies!

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