Woman Reports Sexual Assault After Ordering Car Through App-Based Service

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UPDATED: Thursday July 31, 2014 6:39 PM

A Central Ohio woman was sexually assaulted after ordering a ride through an app-based car service.

The woman was leaving the Arena District, and trying to get to Bexley, where she was staying for the night.  The Arena District is one of the most popular destinations in the city, and a favorite for taxi drivers.  

But a new alternative - already popular in large cities across the U.S. - uses a smart phone app to locate drivers in the immediate area.  They're regular people, using their own vehicle, but for the 24-year-old victim, it took a dangerous turn.

10TV is not revealing the woman's identity because she's the victim of a sexual assault.

The victim told 10TV she was trying to get home early Sunday morning, after a night out with friends.  She said she prefers using app-based services over the traditional cab ride, because of the cost and convenience.  Her cell phone battery was about to run out, she said, so she ordered a car and set out to meet it.

That's when a man in a dark-colored sedan approached her.  "He called out to me from the other side of the street and asked me if I needed a ride," she said. "I asked him if he was a cab. He said yes, get in."

The victim said they made small talk, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until the driver got to her street and refused to let her out.

"This is my payment!" she said the suspect yelled at her. "And, he was trying to reach his hand in my shorts," she told 10TV.

And the situation quickly escalated from there.

"He tried to get on top of me again, and was saying, ‘do you want to die, do you want to die?!’" she said. "And that's when I kneed him, and then punched him and got out of the car."

Bexley Police are in contact with other local police departments to determine if the case is an isolated incident, but say it serves as a cautionary tale.  "I mean, this sounds just as dangerous as if she were hitch-hiking down the road," said Detective Pete Brickey.

The victim said she won't use an app-based service alone ever again, and wants others to know about the risks of this ride.

"I feel extremely lucky. Extremely lucky that I was able to get out without serious injury because it could have been a lot worse," she said.

10TV reached out to Lyft for comment and they released this statement: When passengers request a ride using the Lyft app, they receive a text confirmation that includes the driver's name as well as the make, model and color of their car. Passengers can also see a photo of their driver's face, their car and their license plate number within the app, and can track their driver's arrival via GPS.

Bexley Police do not believe the driver worked for Lyft or any other app-based service.  The victim describes him as man in his early 20s, 5'10" or 5'11" and approximately 225 pounds.  His car is a newer model navy or black Nissan with a built-in navigation system.

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