CHICAGO — A woman who was groped by a Lyft driver said the company didn’t react fast enough when she told them about the assault, and she’s worried for her safety and the safety of other women passengers.
Kristen Gill, 29, of Avondale, said the driver grabbed her on June 16 while dropping her off. But, a week after the incident, she’s still heard little from Lyft and has been left questioning if the driver will be able to assault other women. It was days before the company even told Gill the driver had been removed from its platform, she said.
A Lyft spokesman told Block Club Chicago on Sunday the incident was “deeply disturbing.”
“Safety is fundamental to Lyft and we have absolutely no tolerance for such behavior in our community,” the Lyft spokesman said. “We have permanently banned the driver, have been in touch with the passenger to offer our support and stand ready to assist law enforcement with an investigation.”
The incident happened late on June 16. Gill and a friend were seeing a show at Northerly Island when they decided to take a Lyft home since they’d been drinking, she said. The driver picked them up and chatted with the women during the ride.
The women told the driver about what’d they been doing and the three laughed and had a “normal Lyft ride, normal conversation,” Gill said. When they got to the dropoff point at about 11:15 p.m., the driver reached back and shook Gill’s friend’s hand.
But as Gill got out, the driver turned around completely, reached under her skirt and grabbed her, she said.
Gill got out of the car but, in shock, stood there as her friend screamed at the driver.
“It happened so fast,” Gill said. “It was like we were friends with this guy and then he felt like he had the right to grab me because we such a good conversation. It was like he thought we owed him something — like he thought he could do it because we were being nice to him. He didn’t even think twice of it.”
The driver took off and Gill called Lyft, where she received a “pretty generic apology on the phone,” she said. The Lyft representative said Gill should expect a call from Lyft’s safety division, she said.
Gill also called police and filed a report. The police were more apologetic than Lyft, Gill said, with an officer thanking Gill for calling and saying she was sorry for what had happened.
Chicago Police did receive a report of a woman who was getting out of a car when a man touched her inappropriately, a spokeswoman said. The man was not in custody as of Friday.
Lyft later sent Gill a “super generic email” saying they were sorry about what had happened and were taking the incident seriously, Gill said. But she thought the response was too vague.
“They didn’t tell me anything about the driver — nothing about his history, nothing about if he was still on the streets, driving other women around,” Gill said.
Frustrated, Gill tweeted a long message at the company about what had happened. It was only several hours after that post that Lyft informed Gill in an email the driver would no longer be able to drive for Lyft, she said.
“They only told me that he had been pulled from the app after … a couple people shared and reposted and tagged Lyft,” Gill said. “I haven’t heard, I haven’t gotten a phone call [from Lyft]. I’ve only gotten emails.
“Which is infuriating because why should I have to turn to social media to feel safe? I don’t know if this person has my information. Who knows if he took a screenshot of my address, my face?”
Lyft’s responses left Gill fuming as she worried about her safety and the safety of other women passengers.
At the same time, people who saw Gill’s post about the assault on Twitter sent her messages blaming her for the assault. Others suggested she carry pepper spray, though Gill said the assault happened so quickly and suddenly that she wouldn’t have been able to use pepper spray.
“This is bulls—. This is unacceptable,” Gill said. “This happens all the time to women across the country, the world — we don’t have any safety when we get into those vehicles.
“I should be able to be safe no matter what platform I choose to get home by.”
Gill said she’s still angry about what happened and about the “lack of response” she received. She doesn’t plan to ride with Lyft again in the future and wants the company to be more transparent about the frequency of assaults by drivers.
Gill said she’s also hoping Lyft will implement anti-sexual assault training and more detailed background checks for drivers.
“I want them to just acknowledge that this happens and I want them to make actual steps to keep their passengers safe,” Gill said. “I’m angry that this happened.
“I wanted this creep off the streets. According to Lyft, he is. But who knows if … he could be on other rideshare platforms? Who knows? Even though he’s supposedly suspended from Lyft, he could still be driving for Uber.”
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.