Woman sexually assaulted by man she thought was her rideshare driver

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman who thought she was getting into a rideshare vehicle she requested was actually picked up and sexually assaulted by a random person, police say.

Austin police say on Sunday March 19 around 1 a.m., the victim requested a ride via an app from The Domain to downtown Austin to meet some friends. The victim said she got into a white van believing it was her ride but soon after the driver took off, she received a text from the actual driver stating they were still waiting for her.

The victim said the suspect pulled over somewhere along MoPac and sexually assaulted her in the back of the van. The suspect van is white and an older model with a well-maintained tan interior.

Other ride share users told us they’ve had close calls before as well.

“Just because I have gotten into the wrong ride share before especially nights when places are crowded and everyone is getting picked up,” said Elaine Day.

A scary lesson and the reason some like Day now check the app and the car before they ride.

“I think most importantly the license plate number and I verify as I’m walking up to the car it’s the same car,” Day said.

Rideshare driver Anne Wheat says it boils down to communication and being alert.

“Look at the photograph, does the car photograph match the car you’re getting into? Just common sense. You don’t wan’t to go up to a car and just get in it without making sure it’s the right driver,” Wheat said.

At Ride Austin, drivers are required to put a trade dress, or sign that says “Ride Austin” in the window of their car. An extra sign, literally letting passengers know they are getting into a safe ride.

But legislation working its way through the Capitol right now, House Bill 100, would not require ride share companies to have one..

“That’s something we worry because we want our riders to be able to recognize our drivers,” said Ligia Friedman with Ride Austin.

A reminder, after one unfortunate night, to know who is taking you home.

“If you have to go out by yourself at night, just make sure you’re getting in the right car. That’s all I can say,” Wheat said.

The victim was able to give police enough of a description to create a composite.

The suspect is described as:

  • Black male
  • 30-40 years old
  • Approximately 5’10”
  • 180 lbs.
  • Athletic build
  • Bald head
  • Brown eyes

If you have information, please contact the APD Sex Crimes Unit at (512) 974-5230 or Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS or use the new Crime Stoppers App. You can also submit tips by downloading APD’s mobile app, Austin PD, for free on iPhone and Android.

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