Lyft has partnered with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, to provide victims of sexual violence with resources to flee from their abusers with their new pilot program.
The program will roll out in select American cities; however, Lyft declined to release the cities publicly to protect potential users. In eligible cities, Lyft is offering 1,000 free rides to individuals who seek crisis support by contacting the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline.
According to Heather Foster, head of policy engagement and strategic partnerships at Lyft, “When we started thinking about the most vulnerable, we quickly understood that victims of intimate partner violence could be one of those areas where we could do more.” Depending on response and demand, the company could expand the pilot program in the future to offer rides to those who need them.
When someone makes a call to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, they may be given the option to be connected with a Lyft ride in order get transportation to a critical assistance location, like a women’s shelter, the home of a friend or family member, a police station, or to go get a rape kit. The Lyft driver will not be given any indication of the purpose of the ride.
According to Keeli Sorensen, the vice president of victim services at RAINN, these rides are a vital lifeline: “Survivors are feeling a heightened sense of fear being cut off from their normal support networks and safety nets. And some are reported an increase in the frequency and severity of the abuse that they’re experiencing while in that situation.”
In April, Uber launched a similar program that promised 50,000 free rides in 35 cities across 16 counties, in addition to free meals.
This new program comes at a time when police departments across the country say they’ve seen a significant increase in domestic violence calls. The increase is related to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders. In New York, for example, calls to the state’s domestic violence hotline saw a 32 percent jump since last year this time and a 53 percent increase in calls between February and April of this year.
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