Metro, News

Uber driver charged with sexual assault of student

Following alleged assault Aug. 2, Vanessa Garcia ’20.5, U. craft safety tips for ride-sharing apps

By
Metro Editor
Monday, October 22, 2018

Carlos Carrillo, a 29-year-old former Uber driver, was charged with the second-degree sexual assault of Vanessa Garcia ’20.5 hours after reportedly assaulting her during an Uber ride near campus Aug. 2. Carrillo has posted bond is currently in the midst of pre-arraignment counseling, according to court records. Carrillo has a No Contact Order with Garcia.

The Herald does not typically name alleged survivors of sexual assault, but Garcia requested that her name appear in this story as a sign of empowerment and an acknowledgement of her work as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. With Garcia’s guidance and involvement, the University released “Tips for using Uber and Lyft” Oct. 1.

“I want to give a face and a voice to the ‘anonymous 21-year-old victim’ that people were victim shaming in the WPRI article about my assault,” Garcia wrote in a statement to The Herald on her decision to have her name appear in this story.

The Herald interviewed Garcia in August but delayed publication of the story in an effort to reach Carrillo for comment. Garcia criticized The Herald’s decision to contact Carrillo at a rally Sept. 29, The Herald previously reported. It is The Herald’s policy to reach out to those charged with serious crimes for comment when reporting a news story in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of events.

Carrillo’s only listed contact information is his residential address. He did not respond to a letter from The Herald requesting comment. His public defender, Jason Ollman, refused to comment.

Garcia reported being “inappropriately touched” by Carrillo, according to police records.

“What the rider reported to police is appalling and wrong. This driver no longer has access to the app, and we will support the police investigation,” a spokesperson for Uber wrote in an email to The Herald, adding that Carrillo had no previous reports “of this nature.”

Uber drivers are expected to comply with the company’s community guidelines, which include a clause forbidding sexual contact when using the platform. “As a reminder, Uber has a no sex rule. That’s no sexual conduct between drivers and riders, no matter what,” the guide reads.

A CNN investigation in April revealed that at least 103 Uber drivers in the United States have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years. At least 31 of these drivers have been convicted, according to the investigation.

Providence Police Public Information Officer Lindsay Lague wrote in an email to The Herald that the incident between Garcia and Carrillo is one of the first complaints about an Uber driver in relation to a student in recent memory.

Garcia’s ride began at 12:24 a.m. from Thayer Street and was a two-destination trip. At the first stop, Garcia allowed Carrillo to use her bathroom while she waited outside for him, according to the report. As the ride resumed, Carrillo “insisted on her sitting in the passenger seat,” Garcia told the police.

While she was in the front seat, Carrillo asked her if she had a boyfriend and began to “stroke her legs and chest area,” according to the report. Garcia told him to stop and he started “touching her groin area.” He then stopped the car and attempted to climb on top of Garcia. She cried no repeatedly and Carrillo responded “Okay, I won’t,” according to the report. He returned to his seat but rested his hand on her chest area as he drove, the report stated.

Carrillo then drove Garcia to her final destination. As she fumbled with her belongings before entering the house, Carrillo came up behind her on the doorstep, grabbed her from behind and began “grinding against her” while feeling her chest, according to the report. After she opened the door, Carrillo “demand(ed) her phone number,” the report stated.

Garcia said she gave Carrillo a five-star rating after the incident to avoid filling out the comment box that is required if dolling out a low review — and to keep herself safe. “If I rated him one star, his rating would go down and he knew where I lived. I just wanted him out of my life,” she said.

The investigation transferred from the University’s Department of Public Safety to the Providence Police that night. “The student initially contacted Brown DPS. Once the department was made aware of the circumstances, they contacted the Providence Police Department to investigate,” Executive Assistant for Brown DPS Kate Felder wrote in an email to The Herald.

DPS refers the “majority of serious crimes occurring on campus and streets adjacent to the campus” to the Providence Police, DPS Deputy Chief of Police Paul Shanley wrote in an email to The Herald.

Following the incident, Garcia has struggled to find her new normal, she said. She has worked with a Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource and Education advocate to find new forms of transportation and to discuss how to best work with a detective. She no longer uses Uber “because I have trauma from using rideshare apps and can no longer trust strangers like that,” Garcia said.

Garcia decided to be named in The Herald despite comments on previous media coverage that blamed her for the assault, she said.

“Comments blam(ed) me for getting assaulted because I agreed to sit in the front (seat), and statements (claimed) that if I were to be raped in my own house because I let him use the bathroom, that would also be my own fault,” she wrote in a follow-up statement to The Herald. “I am sick and tired of people 1) thinking that it is in any way MY fault or burden to bear as a survivor and 2) that those comments don’t affect anyone. After reading these comments in the detective’s office, I remember bursting out in tears and wanting to just disappear from this society. Your blaming of victims matters and it hurts. Do better.”

Garcia hopes her experience helps University students stay safe when using ridesharing apps. “Tips for using Uber and Lyft” suggests avoiding riding in the front seat, among other pieces of advice. “At a bare minimum, don’t take rideshares alone,” Garcia said. “Use safety apps so you can send tracking to your friends, and don’t get in the front seat if you get bad vibes from someone.”

The University recommends The Brown Guardian Mobile Safety App, which was updated June 27 and includes instant location sharing and streaming, a two-way text option with Public Safety and a content portal for University Campus Safety information.

Brown community members affected by sexual assault can call the Sexual Assault Response Line at 401-863-6000 or visit the Health Services website for more details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*