Uber Driver Sentenced; What Can We Do To Stay Safe?

On Friday September 27, King County Superior Court Judge John Ruhl sentenced Israel Ramos Islas in two separate counts of rape to nearly 12 years in prison. Mr. Ramos Islas was working as an Uber driver when he provided a ride to one of the victims; in the other he lured a woman into his car by posing as her summoned Uber driver.


In the sentencing, both women bravely addressed the court, sharing the irreversible damage these crimes have had on them. The Court sentenced Ramos Islas to the high end of the range, effectively taking him off the streets for more the next decade. But the sentence can never erase what happened to the two women who told their stories Friday.



In the wake of crimes like this, women (and parents of young women) are often left wondering what they can do to avoid being victimized like this.[1] Here are a few Savvy and Safe suggestions:


1. Whenever possible travel in pairs—avoid using a taxi or ride-sharing service alone. As the old saying goes, there is definitely strength in numbers. This is particularly true if alcohol has been consumed.


2. Before getting in any vehicle, always confirm using the app that both the car (license, make and model) and the driver are who the app says they are; to confirm the identity of the driver, ask them their name in addition to comparing the photo provided. In at least one of these cases, double checking that information might have helped prevent the crime from occurring. Never, ever accept a ride from someone claiming to be an Uber or Lyft driver if you have not requested a ride directly through the app.


3. Before getting in the car, also ask the driver who they are there to pick up and make sure they have your correct name before getting in.


4. When riding in a taxi or ride share, always get in the back seat. This provides a degree of separation that may be critical.


5. Take a screen shot of the driver assigned to your ride and share it with a friend or parent—this adds a level of protection.


6. While in the car, place a call to someone (even if fake) and tell them you’ll be home in a few minutes. Never, ever let a driver know that you live alone (if you do) or that your roommates/housemates are out of the house. Give the driver the impression that someone is waiting for you.


7. If practical/possible, have the driver drop you off at a nearby open business (coffee shop, grocery store, laundry mat, etc.) rather than your home address.


8. Do not share personal information with your driver including your phone number, apartment number (if going to a complex), or anything else that a driver could use to track you.


9. Above all, trust your gut. Too often we dismiss our own sense of discomfort or convince ourselves we are wrong out of a fear of making a scene or offending someone. It is better to be cautious and wrong, however, than polite and victimized. If your gut tells you something feels off or dangerous—listen to it and ask to get out as soon as possible in a public location.


If you have found these tips helpful or have a young person in your life that might benefit from them, please forward this article! The more we can collectively create a culture of safety, the fewer sentencings like this will need to occur.

[1] To be clear, it is never, ever a woman’s fault for being raped, and nothing she has done or failed to do EVER justifies such an invasion. That said, reality holds that it is wise for women take certain precautions to protect themselves.

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