Lucy White: ‘I don’t feel safe getting into a taxi in Dublin late at night anymore’
Women shouldn’t have to worry about their safety, writes Lucy White. But as Gardaí investigate the alleged sexual assault of a woman by a suspected bogus taxi driver, it’s more important than ever that we make informed choices when getting home at night
Festive season is upon us, which means late-night Christmas parties — and the very reasonable assumption that you’ll get home safely, with only tipsy texts or having snogged Donal in tech support giving you the horrors the next day.
One young woman in Sutton, North Dublin, though, was not so lucky. In the early hours of Saturday, November 23, she was “allegedly” sexually assaulted by a man believed to be posing as a taxi driver. (Given that false allegation figures of reported sex crimes are apparently around 0.5 per cent and data from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office reveals only one in ten sexual offences reported to Gardaí last year have been solved, #IBelieveHer).
This horrifying incident has barely made a dent in the national media, with Gardaí seemingly reluctant to release further information, giving reporters very little to share or update. At the time of writing, a Gardaí spokesperson released one public announcement: “Gardaí are investigating a sexual assault that is reported to have occurred in the Sutton Cross area near Howth, in the early hours of Saturday 23rd November 2019. Gardaí are appealing for anyone who may have information, particularly anyone who may have travelled on the Dublin Road, Sutton, Dublin 13 between 3.30-4.10am who observed any suspicious behaviour, or any road users in the area who may have camera footage to contact Raheny Garda Station on 01 666 4300, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.”
The very idea of a fraudulent cab driver cruising the streets of Dublin in the dead of night, preying on women who are doing the right thing by getting a taxi home is nothing short of terrifying. More than likely Gardaí know much more than they have released to the media, in a bid to catch the suspect beyond all reasonable doubt. However, knowledge is power and, on that basis, since the authorities aren’t forthcoming with information, below are five practical tips to help you get home safely and not just for Christmas, but for life.
Yes, it’s easy to feel bitter and resentful that the onus is squarely on us women to protect ourselves, rather than shift focus on the perpetrators. Yes, in an ideal world, we could take shortcuts at night, raving drunk, wearing nothing but fig leaves without fear of violence. But until the criminal justice system treats sexual assault as seriously as murder, until the government stops squeezing the budgets of vital frontline services, until society accepts that a drunk woman and/or wearing a miniskirt isn’t “asking for it” — until, until… it is up to us to look after each other, be alert and be confident that we’ve made an informed choice getting home.
1) Prebook a licensed cab or use a taxi app, such as FreeNow or eCab. If you ring the former, ask for the driver’s name and registration details; if booking a car through the latter, this info will be sent to your phone so you have a record of your trip.
2) Frustratingly, during peak times not least during the festive season, cabs are often “unavailable” on apps, which means you’ve no choice but to flag one from the street. Before your big night out, download TFI’s Driver Check App so you can input the cab’s registration number, to suss that the driver is licensed to operate that vehicle. Users can check these details, including a photo of the driver, and forward this info to a friend or family member (minus the pic). All of Ireland’s taxis, hackneys, limousines and all SPSV (Small Public Service Vehicles) drivers are covered by this app, which also includes rural locations. If the information appears incorrect, don’t get in the car and immediately submit a report by clicking the button at the bottom of the screen.
3) If hailing the cab happened so fast that you forgot to input the registration, do so when you’ve belted up inside the car or take a photo of their ID with your phone, explaining to the driver you’ve heard of a rogue taxi driver on the loose and so for your own peace of mind you’re documenting their licence info. If they take umbrage, terminate your ride (ideally somewhere populated, well lit etc, so you’re not potentially jumping out the frying pan and into fire). A person who chooses defensiveness over empathy is just not someone you want to be sharing personal space with and giving your hard-earned money to.
3) This is obvious but share cabs with your friends as much as possible. Obviously someone will be the last drop-off but safety in numbers reduces the likelihood of drama. And if that last pal is more tiddly, ie vulnerable, than everyone else, drop them off first for their own safety.
4) If you’re alone in the cab, make a faux call to a loved one to say you received their text, are on your way home and will be there in so-and-so minutes. That way the driver knows that someone is expecting you soon.
5) The NiteLink bus service can be lairy during Christmas but, again, safety in numbers isn’t to be sniffed at (rule of thumb, sitting downstairs and closest to the front is statistically safer). Visit dublinbus.ie for the timetable, route map and 24-hour retailers, where you can purchase prepaid tickets (€6.60), as bus drivers do not accept debit and credit cards (c’mon, pull your finger out Dublin Bus!?). Also remember that there are late-night DART and Commuter trains over weekends during the festive period and extended services on NYE to be confirmed. Visit irishrail.ie for timetables – and you may feel more comfortable sitting at the top of the front carriage, closest to the driver.
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