The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center is offering advice to Boston-area women, and suggestions to cab companies, in the wake of two reports that women were sexually assaulted by men driving unlicensed taxis.
The first attack happened on Aug. 6, after the victim entered a black Lincoln livery sedan in Boston's Seaport District. The driver, who is still at large, took her to Newton and raped her, according to police. The second assault, which is not believed to be connected to the first, happened Sunday night after a woman entered a similar taxi in Brighton.
“Any sexual assault is troubling, but it is particularly alarming to hear that the assailants in these sexual assaults targeted those who were looking for safer options for getting to their destination,” BARCC said in a statement on its website yesterday.
“It is important to stress that the problem behavior here is that people are looking to victimize others. To do so, it appears they're trying to both pass their vehicles off as legitimate taxi or livery options and conceal their own identities.”
BARCC called on cab and livery companies, as well as the makers of taxi hailing apps, to prioritize the safety of passengers.
The organization offered these suggestions to safe traveling:
- Vehicles must be clearly marked: A medallion number, along with the name of the company, and a phrase such as "Boston Lic. Taxi" should be displayed on the body of the car.
- Drivers should identify themselves and have visible identification in the car: ID should be posted clearly for passengers in the vehicle. Some companies will also provide a name and photo of the driver ahead of time. Background checks of drivers are also recommended.
- Drivers should be respectful and courteous: Remarks about passengers' clothing, bodies and any other comments of a personal nature make passengers feel vulnerable; especially considering drivers have access to address information.
A woman from the United Kingdom weighed in on the danger, saying in the comment section that she had been assaulted by a London cabbie in an unmarked taxi.
"This is a HUGE problem in London as well. Unmarked, non-licensed taxi drivers are trying to make a bit of money. I tried hailing a cab from a very popular gay club area, was pulled off the street and assaulted by one of these men. Unfortunately, he was also targeting gay women as well. So travelers, this isn't just happening at home. It's horrible to think that this can happen anywhere," she said.
BARCC said legitimate taxi or car services should offer a system of accountability so it is easy to identify cars and drivers and locate them after the ride.
"The safest ride option is the service or driver willing to demonstrate that to you and to make sure you feel comfortable riding with them. We have a right to safe ride options at all hours, in all neighborhoods."