From the Forum – Woman Held Against Will in Taxi in Cleveland Park

Photo by PoPville flickr user AWard Tour

Woman Held Against Will in Taxi in Cleveland Park:

“I want to make DC aware of something terrifying that occurred to me on Friday evening, September 26th, around 10:30 pm, after taking a taxi home to Cleveland Park.

After repeated personal questions and inappropriate comments (eg “I like you,” “will you go on a date with me?”), the cab driver stopped in front of my building, looked me in the eyes, intensely, and told me I was locked inside his cab until I handed over “enough” cash. (He had not turned on the meter for the trip). I was trapped inside and scared, so I complied with his request to hand over cash.

I filed a police report with MPD immediately following the incident, I have consulted an attorney, and I plan to press charges.

I notified the DC taxicab commision of the incident, and I plan to do the same in Maryland- the cab had Maryland plates.

It is outrageous how difficult it can be for women to travel around this city safely.”

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102 Comment

  • that is terrifying! glad you got out without something much worse happening and thank you for taking this to the police so this creep gets put away.

  • thats really scare OP. You did the right thing by just giving over the cash. Did you have your phone on you? Coudl have dialed 911 while in the cab. I would also recommend Uber. while thats not 100% eihter, at least you have the drivers info and others could have a record of you getting picked up and by whom in a worst case scenario. DC taxis are the worst.

  • It was a cab with Maryland plates – did you get it from a street hail in DC? Because, if I remember correctly, I think that may be illegal – aren’t all DC-licensed cabs supposed to be registered here (i.e., the reason you’ll see some cabs with both a Virginia and a DC plate)? Or am I wrong?

    It’s just something to look out for, especially if a creep who flouts that law is going to turn out to be even worse.

    • It is 100% illegal. I have actually had really bad experiences (though not this bad!) the handful of times I have gotten in an MD cab that was soliciting rides in DC. I guess if they are willing to break one law, they won’t generally be the most upstanding people…

  • He couldn’t actually lock you in though, right? I’m assuming you just unlocked the door and darted out?
    One mistake I learned when first moving to DC is to not sit in the front seat if you’re solo or the backseat passengers are getting out before you. It’s very easy for the driver to grab you from there, and then you actually are trapped unless you can overcome him by force. A similar thing happened to a friend of mine so it seems like it’s not that uncommon. I think being in a cab alone as a female is really risky/dangerous and should be avoided.

    • Women should be able to take a cab by themselves without having to worry about something like this happening.

      • Agreed – what do you suggest? Walking home alone? Taking the metro alone? Of the options, taking a cab should be considered a responsible and safe option.

        • I’ve had a better track record with all of the above than with taking a cab. You have more options and greater control of the situation when you’re not alone in a stranger’s car.

      • lindz0722

        Of course women SHOULD be able to do anything without having to worry about anything bad happening. But that does not cancel out the fact that we need to be aware of how to keep ourselves the most safe in a variety of situations. (Not trying to start a war with that comment.)

        So, if one woman (or heck, a man) reads a tip on PoP about not sitting in the front in a cab, and in six months, a sketchy cabbie says something like “Oh, that door lock is broken, just sit in the front”, and the person remembers this post and says “No” and takes another cab…. Well, it is a worthwhile post.

        I, for one, had never really thought about that particular situation, but I will in the future.

      • Clearly we must educate cab drivers!

    • It’s entirely possible that she was not able to “just unlock the door.” Many, if not most, newer cars have “child safety locks” on the back doors. These locks are controlled by the driver, who can make it so that the doors can’t be opened until the driver flips a switch that is on the front driver side door. I suppose the reason for this feature is to keep kids from opening doors while the car is in traffic. But it’s also useful for locking an adult in the backseat of a car

      • Ah, I forgot about those! I guess in addition to everything else we need to do to protect ourselves we should carry around a rock so we can break the windows of cabs.

        • Emmaleigh504

          They make special tools that have a blade for cutting seatbelts and a pointed ended designed for breaking car windows. They supposed to be for if you car falls in water and you need to get out. They aren’t too big, could fit in a med-lg purse.

          • I’m just going to go ahead and say that there is something wrong with a world in which the solution for this kind of behavior is for women to carry a tool which enables them to break the back window of the cab they are being imprisoned in.

          • Emmaleigh504

            Well the tool is meant to be in your glove box for when your car goes into the lake and you need to get out. I don’t mean to sound like people should actually carry them. I just know there’s a special tool for breaking car windows.

      • Yep. I had a cab driver do this to me once with the child safety locks. I had a $20 and he didn’t want to make change, so when we got to my building, he locked the doors.

        • We should just have the council pass a regulation that says cabs can’t have child safety locks enabled.

          • Nice idea but considering what a big deal they made about how hard getting credit card readers was, I doubt they’d be able to implement this anytime soon.

          • Or secretly break all child safety locks in cabs. If we work together, we could get it done! (Someone google how to do it.)

  • It might now be a good idea to discuss this case if you have an impending lawsuits. Did your lawyer not mention that to you?

  • Thanks for the support!

    And regarding the suggestion about Uber, yes, I’ve used Uber a lot. That doesn’t preclude creepy people from committing crimes, it just makes it easier to trace the person after they commit the crime. Plenty of scary stuff has happened with Uber drivers.

    Dialing 911 while still in the cab could have escalated the situation. The goal was to GET OUT. Period. I had no way of knowing what he was capable of, what he was planning, or whether he might have had a weapon.

    I don’t feel the need to defend any of my actions.

    The guy locked me inside his cab. Let’s talk about HIS ACTIONS, not mine.

    Thanks 🙂

    • + a bazillion

      I also feel compelled to a) say you seem awesome and b) I’m super appreciative that you plan to press charges to give this guy want he deserves. Thanks for speaking out!

    • I’m glad you were able to get away safely. Women should not have to fear for their safety when they call a cab. I hope the police do press charges against the guy. He should not be driving a taxi.

    • 110% to the last lines.

      People who suggest that you just shouldn’t have been taking the cab alone as a woman is ridiculous. How about bringing up how the cab companies need to take responsibility for their drivers? If this happened on the metro, they’d probably tell you not to be on the metro alone. Or stop being a women. Maybe wear a chastity belt and lug around one of those seat belt cutters?

    • justinbc

      Excellent response, you’ve got nothing to defend here.



    And yes, it was illegal for him to pick me up in DC as a Maryland cab.

    • Without witnesses, it is her word against his. But kudos to her if she is willing to press charges against this guy. Even if the charges don’t stick, even if all that happens is the police track this guy down and interview him, maybe that will deter him from doing this kind of thing again. I bet this isn’t the first time he has done this. Maybe it will be the first time he suffers some consequences for doing it.

      • Many crimes get prosecuted without third party witnesses.

      • Well, this is a good example as to why I never have a cab drop me off at my actual house, but instead on the corner near my house. I don’t want them to know where I live, especially if I have to break out the window to get away from them.

        • Anonymous 4:56 p.m. — That strategy is all very well and good… until you get mugged walking from the corner to your house.

    • ah

      It’s not illegal if you’re going to Maryland from DC.

      But of course it’s illegal to lock you in wherever your are.

  • i’m sorry this happened, but i am very glad you are pushing forward with taking legal action. good luck!

  • Is there a way to text 911?

  • districtkate, 1) I’m horrified and sorry this happened to you, 2) you didn’t do anything wrong, and 3) I commend that you did exactly what you needed to do to get away safely.
    Anyone who says or even implies that she should have done something differently (e.g. look at the license plates before getting in, simply unlock the door) is edging toward victim shaming and needs to shut the f up.
    The only appropriate replies here are how we can make public transportation options safe for women in our city.

    • I wasn’t victim shaming. Just making sure fellow women are aware of how dangerous cabs can be. That doesn’t make it right but after my experiences with sexual assault I’ll never take a cab alone again.

    • seriously, who looks at license plates before getting into a cab, anyway?! I mean, it’d probably be good to also ask for license, registration, proof of insurance, and a breathalyzer, too, while we’re at it.

      • Taking a pic of the plates (and the driver’s info if he has it displayed) is a good habit to get into at the start of the ride. It makes them think twice before doing something shady.

        • Nobody takes a picture of the cab’s plate before they get in. It’s not a “good habit” – it’s trying to find excuses for what this person “did wrong” to get herself in the situation.

          • Where did I say she deserved for this to happen because she didn’t photograph the plates? I just meant it’s a smart idea. Unfortunately these are the measures we must take until the cab industry gets their act together.

          • I do when getting in alone. Nothing “done wrong” just suggestions for future safety..relax

        • justinbc

          Given that the only times I really ever take a cab are because I’m well into a state of inebriation, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard, it seems silly to set expectations of what people should do outside of “sit in the car and expect not to be harassed on the way”.

          • I hardly ever take cabs now, and when I used to, I was usually stone-cold sober… but the times when I specifically looked for the driver’s info, either I couldn’t read it from the back seat or the visor would be flipped the wrong way.
            The D.C. Taxicab Commission seems to be very much in the pocket of the industry, but it ought to do a better job of screening so that women passengers don’t have to regard taxi drivers as potential assailants. All passengers should be able to “sit in the car and expect not to be harassed on the way.”

      • I am 100% not saying that the OP was wrong for not looking at the plates, but I always make sure it is a DC cab (by plates, paint job, etc) before getting in just b/c I have had terrible experiences with MD cabs I have accidentally hailed while in DC. I also think their meters are more expensive than DC cabs, but I am not sure. Still, it is 100% on the cab driver to not even try to pick up a fare while in DC.

    • Its not victim shaming to ask questions or speculate about what she could have done differently to avoid the situation. Everyone understands she is a victim and you should be able to use cab services safely, but if you don’t want people to inquire about what could be different, then you shouldn’t post on a website.

      • Agreed that posting something on a website is an invitation to comments and inquiry about one’s behavior. But call comments and questions aren’t created equal. Commenters and questioners should realize that it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and catalogue all of the things you would have done differently if you had been in the same situation – or at least all of the things you think you would have done, because you really have no idea what you would have actually done.

      • It’s a fine line. I agree that talking about it helps others think about what they might do if they find themselves in a similar situation (which presumably is why she brought this to PoPville’s attention). Maybe we should all consider that the way a question is asked matters, and instead of asking, “Why didn’t you do X?” instead ask, “Do you think doing X would have led to good/bad result?”

      • “Its not victim shaming to ask questions or speculate about what she could have done differently to avoid the situation.”

        That is actually the definition of victim shaming

        • Actually the difference would be “should” vs “could”. The element of blame. Thanks though.

          • Yeah, you’re just plain wrong about the distinction. Thanks though.

          • But if you switch out could for should, you’re still questioning the actions she took. You’re implying that she’s responsible for the harm that happened to her, aka, victim blaming.

          • Petworth_Res, your logic is faulty.

          • Something can simultaneously be informative and offensive. Different people, and even the same people when in different circumstances, will naturally give more weight to one than the other.

        • No it’s not. My friend’s house got broken into through their roof hatch. My thinking, “Oh, I’m going to screw down my roof hatch” was not the same as “my friend is to blame for her house being burgled.” I learned something from the misfortune that befell her but was not of her doing.

    • Yep, on all counts. I’m a guy in my 40s and I’ve been in a scrape or 2 back in the day. I’ve noticed a distinct difference in how people react to my stories vs. similar stories from women. A number of years ago — under the old zone system — a cabbie tried to scam me into paying a lot more than I was supposed to. When I told him to take a hike he locked his doors and wouldn’t let me out. I (admittedly, unwisely) threatened to climb over the seat and beat the living daylights out of him if he didn’t let me out. He backed down and I went on my merry way. When I told people about it, I got a little crap about maybe handling things a little less violently, but not once did someone say that I should be more careful about getting into cabs or anything like that. I suspect that this type of victim shaming is more of a paternalism thing aimed at women.

    • Totally agree. Also, I know some people mean well with these safety tips, but they are actually pretty condescending. Women know how dangerous cabs can be for them because we are warned about this kind of thing OUR ENTIRE LIVES. Yet we somehow manage to still venture out of the house.

      • Except the MPD is constantly claiming they’re the safest option.

      • “Women know how dangerous cabs can be for them because we are warned about this kind of thing OUR ENTIRE LIVES.”
        I don’t know about that — I was always told not to walk alone and all of that, but nobody ever said anything about cabs being risky. I had never heard anything about cabs being unsafe until I arrived in D.C.

        • Yes, I was always told to take a cab instead of walking home or using public transportation late at night.

        • Emmaleigh504

          But it’s the same basic stuff: don’t cab when you are drunk, take pictures, get out early, don’t do it alone, etc etc. If someone had actual new ways of being safe it would be different.

          • I’ve always thought the advice about getting out a block or so from your actual destination (so that the cabdriver won’t know where you live) is questionable. What, so you can then get mugged while walking from the cab to your destination??

          • Emmaleigh504

            I’m too lazy for that bs. plus if the cabbie really wanted to know where you live they just have to watch to see what house you go into.

        • Yep. I have taken cabs routinely in Boston, NYC, Chicago, and many other places and nowhere are they as bad/have such as unsafe feeling as here in DC.

          • Really? Hm that’s interesting. Long Island has terrible cabs, I was once in a drug deal against my will. It’s the only other place I’ve really taken cabs routinely besides Philadelphia. I assumed all cabs were creepy and it was the luck of the draw.

  • I wonder how some of these posters would feel if they were locked in a cab, alone, late at night. I think the OP made the right call just getting out of the cab and then contacting MPD…the saying “don’t let them take you to the 2nd location” sounds likes great advice in this situation.

  • No one is blaming her for anything. I simply asked why not just get out from the cab the moment you felt uncomfortable instead of going to place of home. Not making an excuse for what the cabi did. This just not about OP experience but any who may find themselves in a similar situation. You try to get away/out at first opportunity because you have NO idea how it’s going to end.

    • Um, you are. You just said that she did something wrong by not getting out earlier. So we’re going to assume that your judgment is crystal clear in everything you do, right? Must be nice. Besides, isn’t it possible that the driver would have just tried to lock her in whenever she tried to get out, whether that was a block before her place, 2 blocks, 5, etc.?

    • Depending on where she was coming from, getting out as soon as she felt uncomfortable might have meant getting out in a neighborhood she didn’t know, or a comparatively deserted area (like Military Road through Rock Creek Park). Or it might have meant trying to exit a moving vehicle, which could be dangerous.
      The cabdriver might have started with comments that were borderline — not bad enough to make a passenger think about trying to escape the car — and then proceeded to the more inappropriate ones.
      And even with the inappropriate comments, the OP might have thought, “This is a weird, sleazy cabdriver, but soon I’ll be home and I’ll never take a cab from ____ Company again.”

    • Honestly, a lot of women are put in situations that make them feel slightly uncomfortable so often that it would be difficult to get something done if you bailed every time something slightly strange started to happen. Sometimes it escalates and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s hard to tell which way it’s going to go when it first begins. This is my experience anyway, I really can’t comment on behalf of all women.

    • What if she couldn’t get out? What if he followed her in the car? Or how about the fear of not wanting to further anger the driver or offend him. I’m hoping you’re a guy, and not a woman, because women know the fear of insulting/offending someone could lead to even worse consequences then just getting to your location and not looking back.

  • can we have a description of the cabbie? I”ve experienced something similar…

  • Thank you for posting this — and for having the courage and the stamina to press charges.
    One of the reasons I wish that Metro were open later is that choosing between standing on a corner waiting for a bus at night, and getting into a cab driven by a stranger have felt — to me — like less safe options. Now I’m wondering if there’s a way to outlaw child safety locks on cabs.

  • Thank you for posting this — and for having the courage and the stamina to press charges.
    One of the reasons I wish that Metro were open later is that choosing between standing on a corner waiting for a bus at night, and getting into a cab driven by a stranger have felt — to me — like less safe options. Now I’m wondering if there’s a way to outlaw child safety locks on cabs.

    • I can’t think of a single reason why there should be child safety locks on a cab- this really should be outlawed!

      • I don’t think that we’re talking about child locks here. With child locks, even when the driver uses the central unlock button the rear seat passenger can’t open the doors from the inside. You actually have to get out and open the door from the outside and I’ve never seen a cab where the driver had to get out to let the passenger out. I’m guessing that OP’s cab — and I’m so terribly sorry to read about this story, OP — had the type of straight up-and-down rear door button thingy that drops below the door line and that can’t be lifted by the passenger. Should those be outlawed? Maybe. If you’ve ever taken black cab in London you’d notice that the doors automatically unlock every time the cab comes to a stop.

    • justinbc

      I highly doubt it. In DC for example lots of tourists take cabs, with their children. Imagine if DC outlawed cabs with child safety locks and then some kid goes and opens the door? There goes millions of dollars for a preventable lawsuit. Unfortunately society has to protect itself against those who regularly test Darwin’s theories, and that’s how you wind up with women trapped in cabs because children can’t be trusted not to open doors.

  • tonyr

    Seriou question – what does “press charges” actually mean? Isn’t that the DAs job? If the DA decides not to proceed, how does one go about pressing criminal charges? If the DA decides to proceed, how can you not “press charges”?

    • Fair question. It depends on the jurisdiction, but in DC the US Attorney’s office or (in some types of misdemeanors) the DC AG’s office pretty much has total discretion on how (or whether) to proceed. When someone says “press charges” to me, I take it as meaning that they intend to make a complaint to law enforcement and then follow up in the hope that the case is prosecuted. Conversely, someone who declines to “press charges” is essentially asking the prosecutor to drop the matter. Doesn’t mean they have to, but the prosecutor would have a hard time prosecuting a case with an uncooperative victim.

  • One option to avoid this risk is to roll the window down when you’re a block or so from your destination. All child safety locks are required by law to allow the door to be opened from the outside. Just reach out and open the handle. Worst case scenario you can climb out that open window.
    It’s worth noting, however, that this was pre-meditated. Anyone with kids knows the child lock on back doors is an analog switch you slide from off to on in the actual door jam itself. There is no car ever sold in the United States with a control inside the vehicle. The switch you are thinking about is the power window lock control, which is typically on the driver door. So, one of two things is possible here – either he actually used the child lock, which means he had to exit the cab and open the door to either let you out or deactivate it, or, he simply locked the door and had disabled the actuator in the door that allows for manual override by physically moving the lock mechanism (usually in the windowsill in American and European cars or at the door handle in Asian cars). Both actions are prohibited by all cab regulations nationwide.
    Either activating the child lock or disabling the manual override of the lock shows that he decided, well before picking you up, that he wanted the ability to lock someone in his cab. The easy way to avoid this in the future is, after you get in the cab but before you close the door, manually manipulate the locking mechanism on the door to be sure you can both lock and then unlock the doors. If this mechanism is not working properly, simply say “Actually, I changed my mind” and get out and hail a different cab. Note: this comment is *NOT* victim-shaming in any way, it’s sharing a clever tip most people wouldn’t think of to help others avoid this in the future. DistrictKate did everything right here – this is just adding another tool for anyone to use later on.

    • I’ve been in many cabs where my ability to open the power windows has also been overridden — so that the only way that I can get the window down is to ask the driver to open it for me. By the time I get to that point, I’m already in the cab with the door closed — and possibly locked by the driver.
      Again, my appreciation to districtkate for the post. This thread is bringing up a lot of concerns that I had not realized were already regulated — but not enforced.

  • A similar kind of situation happened to me maybe a year ago, right after it was mandatory to have credit card machines in taxis. I lived in Arlington at the time and hailed a cab late at night from DC, because my phone was dead and I didn’t want to wait alone for the Eastern Market metro. We got to my building and I tried to use a card, but he refused and said the machine was broken. I only had $10 for a $13 ride, and he also refused to take the $10 and let me out. He drove me back to DC where he picked me up and let me out of the car, with me screaming the entire way. Most terrifying 10 minutes of my life, and I haven’t taken a DC cab since then. I was so scared that I didn’t even think about trying to find a police officer until he was long gone.

  • how do we, as residents of a city where there is crime, learn to be more street smart. how do we teach others to be more street smart without coming across as an ass?

    where and when is the place to talk about that, if not when talking about a crime that happened?

    • i guess we don’t.

    • It’s great to talk about the crime. That’s the whole point of posting this- to raise awareness about what happened. It’s not fun or therapeutic in any way for me to share, publicly, this really traumatizing thing that happened to me. I do it solely with the goal of trying to make this better for other women in the future.

      I don’t feel the need to defend any of my actions that night, so I won’t. I don’t think I need to be taught how to be “street smart.” Any implication of that is victim-blaming at its finest. Walking home alone at night is plenty risky, but I do it all the time. Taking a cab is supposed to be a safe option.

      As women, we already live in a state of acute awareness of our surroundings and situations and ways to avoid the ever-present threatening behaviors of men.

      I would argue that it doesn’t get any more “street smart” than that.

  • When I got mugged on the sidewalk directly in front of my apartment, tons of people chided me for walking home alone and not taking a cab. Now I see many comments about how a woman shouldn’t take a cab alone. I guess it’s just our own damn fault for being women going about our lives, sometimes alone in public.

    • im sorry you got mugged.
      i think for every single action we, as both men or woman, take someone will chide us for that action.

  • What a horrifying experience that no one should have to go through. I am also confused by the need to talk about all that the passenger could have done differently. I hope this driver is able to be located and held accountable for his actions.

  • Isn’t the taxi cab commission in the pocket of that one guy who also owns most the cab companies?

  • Informative article, ttotally what I needed.

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