NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News woman is left in shock after a traumatizing experience on her way to work.
Kayla Darden says she called for a Lyft car just like any other day. When the driver arrived, Darden got in and made small talk as they pulled away. That’s when she said the male driver started acting strange.
Although she was uncomfortable, she kept her focus outside the window.
“At first I thought that he was just looking in the review mirror, to like check his surroundings, but then I noticed he like kept looking in his review mirror staring for a while. Then I noticed he was looking at me,” said Darden.
Eventually, she grew tired of the stares. Darden turned to confront him and her heart dropped.
“That’s when I saw his private area and I saw him, you know… his hands were on his private area and his hands were moving,” she said.
Darden says she tried her best to remain calm and started to record the man as evidence.
“I didn’t want to address him at that moment because I was afraid that, you know, he would… I don’t know, get mad and decide he didn’t want to take me to work. Decide he wanted to take me somewhere else,” she said.
The traumatizing ride came to an end once she got to work, but not before one final scare.
“He didn’t unlock the car automatically, so I had to unlock it myself. So when I noticed the car wasn’t unlocked, I kind of panicked because I just thought something else. I thought he was just gonna pull off.” she said.
Darden exited the vehicle.
“When we got to my destination, he was still fully exposed. He turned around, told me, ‘Have a good day.’ He was staring, like staring at me. Not saying anything after that. He was still exposed,” she said.
Darden told the driver she saw what he was doing, she was going to report him, and that she caught him on camera.
An editorial decision not to show the full video due was made to its explicit nature.
Two weeks later, Darden is still shaken. Newport News police tell WAVY News they are investigating, but that no arrests have been made. Although the Lyft account was associated with a name and license plate number, Darden said the driver looked different from in the picture. She says he was also wearing sunglasses and a mask at the time of the ride.
WAVY chose to refrain from sharing the Lyft account’s name or profile picture until police decide the driver associated with the account was the person responsible.
In a statement, a Lyft spokesperson said, “Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and the behavior described is appalling. We removed the driver from the Lyft platform as soon as we learned of this incident and reached out to the rider to offer our support. We responded to law enforcement’s request to assist with their investigation.”
The experience has left Darden feeling uneasy, but she’s pushing past it in hopes her story will remind others to stay aware of their surroundings and be on the lookout for this type of behavior.
“Always just stay aware. Protect yourself. Keep some type of weapon on you — mace, Taser, or anything. Make sure whenever you get that driver notification that you screenshot that automatically and send that to anybody,” said Darden. “Stay calm, like, just make sure you just stay calm. Your phone is your best friend, use that.”
Virginia’s statute of limitations allows you to report most misdemeanor crimes within a year of their occurrence. If something similar to this situation has happened to you, Darden wants you to come forward.
“Hopefully he wasn’t able to, you know, use another platform and make another profile. If this has happened to you, I’m sorry, you have to report it,” she said.
WAVY News has reached out to other ride-sharing companies to see if this driver was registered on their platforms.
On Thursday, Lyft released its first safety report for the years 2017-2019. It shows more than 4,000 incidents of sexual assaults reported to the ride-sharing company. Those reported assaults were broken down into five sub-categories: non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part, attempted non-consensual sexual penetration, and non-consensual sexual penetration.
As of Friday evening, the data did not mention or include any incidents of indecent exposure in the safety report. WAVY has reached out to see if the numbers were documented at all and if they will include those types of reports in the future.
“In putting the safety of its community members as its top priority, Lyft takes all reported incidents seriously and thoroughly investigates each one. Lyft’s Safety Specialists are trained to approach each case with respect and care. Doing so helps protect drivers and riders and makes the Lyft community safer for all.”Jennifer Brandenburger, Head of Policy Development and Research at Lyft