When deciding where to travel on vacation, many people rely on reviews posted to websites like Airbnb and TripAdvisor. After all, if you’re going to an unfamiliar place—and especially if you’re traveling alone—it’s important to take proper precautions. But a recent Change.org petition alleges that TripAdvisor has failed to help rape victims take action—and failed to protect potential future victims.
The petition, created by a woman known only as K., alleges that a tour guide raped her on a recent trip to the Horn of Africa. She wrote that she chose the guide based on his high rating on TripAdvisor, and that after her assault, she asked the company to warn other users. However, K. claims that instead of taking action, the company merely asked her to leave a review on the site.
In an update to her petition, posted on March 18th, she wrote that she had reported the rape to local authorities and received help from a lawyer. Nevertheless, she was frustrated that TripAdvisor failed to help her warn others, and she even claimed that it suspended reviews that her friends posted on her behalf.
After K.’s petition went live, The Guardian found 40 other reviews on the site that detailed rape or sexual assault from staff members at hotels or other businesses. Out of those, only 14 reviews had received a response from the businesses in question. Although the company has a policy of flagging businesses with “health, discrimination, and safety” issues, these companies are reevaluated after a period of three months. There are currently only four flagged businesses, according to The Guardian.
This isn’t the first time that TripAdvisor has come under fire for the way it handled rape allegations. In 2017, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on several stories of women who said their reviews had been removed from the site. In one 2010 instance, a Texas woman left a review detailing a sexual assault that occurred at a resort in Mexico. TripAdvisor deleted her one-star review under old community guidelines, which stipulated that language had to be “family friendly.” According to The New York Times, the company issued an apology to the woman and restored her comment, although her story ended up buried among other reviews.
K.’s scary experience highlights how important it is to not only listen to survivors, but also take action when action is needed. This isn’t just a matter of justice—it’s a matter of safety.