A man in London has just been arrested on charges of drugging and raping women he picked up in his taxi cab. Though there are countless published stories about the case, the information is exceedingly limited in all of them. Here is the gist:

Up to 35 women may have been drugged and raped by a London taxi driver, police said on Monday.

Thirty women have come forward after a man was arrested last Friday in southeast London on suspicion of rape.

Police were initially investigating five attacks in which victims were picked up in a black cab near Oxford Street, King’s Road or London Bridge.

The suspect is accused of attacking his passengers after offering them spiked glasses of champagne which he said were to help him celebrate a lottery win.

The most recent reported attack took place on February 5 after a 33-year-old woman was picked up near London Bridge Station.

“Every case is being linked,” a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Knowing full well that the Mirror is about as far from a reputable news source as you can get (don’t worry, the facts are the same in every story), I chose to use their article particularly because of the confounding nature of the first sentence. “Up to 35 women.” Well, 35 women in total have come forward. And instead of reaching what I would deem to be the logical conclusion — that if 35 have already come forward, just think of how many others there are — the Mirror has apparently determined that when 35 women come forward with rape allegations, that’s the definitive total, and at least a few have to be liars.

It’s funny, because it seems to be a theme recently. No, not just calling rape victims liars, since that’s pretty much a theme of living in the world as a woman. I’m talking about women being raped in cabs — and then having it implied that they are liars or to blame for the assaults.

No, really, it’s pretty astonishing. You’d think that would be a pretty niche victim-blaming market. But it’s not. In fact, it’s a recent phenomenon that spans at least 4 continents.

You see, I read the above story yesterday, and wanted to find it again today. I used the Google News search engine, and in a simple strategy I often employ, typed in two words that A. feature prominently in the story and B. are unlikely to turn up stories other than what I’m looking for. In this case, I chose “taxi rape.” And I was in for quite a surprise, because a hell of a lot came up in addition the the UK case.

Here’s the oldest story — about three weeks old — coming out of Australia:

The lawyer for a taxi driver linked to three alleged rapes by DNA technology has told a Sydney court two of the alleged victims were prostitutes.

Thrity-six-year-old Hassan Nagi is accused of sexually assaulting three women in his cab in Sydney between 2003 and 2007.

In his bail application at Central Local Court today, lawyer Clive Stern SC said the alleged victims in 2006 and 2007 were prostitutes and there had been a dispute over the taxi fare after consensual sex.

Mr Stern said the woman complained in the first matter because she was late to meet her boyfriend.

He accused prosecutor Kate Chater of misleading the court and said the defendant was not a cab driver in 2003.

Ms Chater opposed bail, saying the allegations were serious. She said the third alleged victim had been detained and raped repeatedly.

She denied the women were prostitutes but described one as a massage therapist.

Ah. See, here we’ve got a defense attorney going with a double-barreled approach. First of all, rape victims are vindictive liars. Secondly, sex workers are vindictive liars who can’t be raped — when talking about a prostitute, we call it “theft of services,” after all. Basically, with this genius strategy, it’s not even possible for the man to have raped these women. He says didn’t do it, and the women are just trying to ruin the poor guy’s life over the fact that he made one of them late to meet her boyfriend. Women do that kind of shit all the time, especially women who sell sex, what with our hatred of men and the great propensity in our society for the public to automatically believe any woman who says she has been raped without question. And back to the whole sex worker aspect, even if he did rape them — which he didn’t! — he couldn’t have. Because they’re sex workers. The sex must have been consensual.

No, seriously, give Stern a hand for that one. And while you’re standing, save a moment for the police:

The taxi driver was arrested and charged on Wednesday last week after a seven-month investigation by a special police strike force.

Police say the DNA technology used to link the alleged rape cases could lead to further charges.

They have defended their decision not to tell the public about the alleged sex attacks, saying three rapes in four years did not provide a sufficient link to indicate there was a predator.

Well that makes sense. There wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that there was a predator. Which is why they mounted a seven-month special investigation that was likely rather expensive. Don’t get me wrong — I’m thrilled and very genuinely surprised, sadly enough, that they went through the trouble at all. But I’d also really like it if they’d bother to say what the hell they mean, which is one of two things: “of course we knew there was a predator, but didn’t feel that women had the right to know, especially when we probably couldn’t catch the guy unless he raped again” or “of course we knew there was a predator, but two of the victims might have been sex workers, so it wasn’t really important.” Sure, it’s not pretty — which is why they should have gone through the effort to make sure it wasn’t true.

Next up, we have a story about a man in NY who posed as a cab driver and sexually assaulted at least two women in one night.

A man posing as a livery cab driver sexually assaulted an exotic dancer and another woman he picked up a half-hour apart outside a strip club, police said.

Both women remembered the license plate on Torkieh Sadagheh’s Lincoln Town Car, a popular livery cab model, leading to his arrest Sunday on rape and attempted-rape charges, police said.

Several other women who said they had been attacked on their cab rides home were looking at police lineups that could possibly lead to more charges against Sadagheh, police said.

Thankfully, they caught the guy — because both women remembered the license plate number and made reports. But we’re still getting totally classy headlines like this: “Driver charged in sex attacks on 2 women, including exotic dancer.” Hmm. Is anyone else suddenly thinking about headlines like “Man stabbed hooker!” and “Murdered Prostitute Found in Hotel Room!”? You know, it’s not that she deserved it, but did we mention her job and “personal behavior”? That’s some ugly and unnecessary shit, Newsday.

And finally, the last story, out of South Africa. This one may be the most horrific. A woman was physically and sexually assaulted by a gang of male taxi drivers because she was wearing a mini skirt (trigger warning). And though the article claims that the public is outraged, the quotes tell a different story.

The ANC Women’s League called on the department of transport and safety to act. “We call upon the police and metro police to declare Noord Street a hot spot and provide police contact points in this area and a 24-hour visible patrol,” said spokesperson Nomvula Mokonyane.

This was in response to the humiliation on Sunday of Nwabisa Ngcukana (25), when taxi drivers and hawkers at the rank tore off her clothes to cheers from a crowd who said she was being taught a lesson for wearing a miniskirt.

Taxi drivers allegedly put their fingers in her private parts while others poured alcohol over her head and called her names.

Gauteng transport minister Ignatius Jacobs on Tuesday condemned the abuse of the woman and the alleged indecent assault. He called for the leadership of the taxi industry to intervene and work with taxi commuters in exposing the people involved in such acts of indecency.

“This unacceptable practice must stop with immediate effect. It is also the duty of all law-abiding members of taxi associations to work with the police service in protecting women from such misbehaviours,” Jacobs said.

A number of people interviewed on Tuesday at the taxi rank felt women should not expose their body by wearing miniskirts.

A taxi driver named Phineas said that by wearing miniskirts, women abuse men by being “half-naked”. He blamed lawmakers for the “sad state” of dressing among young women. “Before 1994, women wore clothes neatly and properly; now they say they have rights.”

Ebby Phakula of Meadowlands said women should not wear miniskirts as this arouses men and leads to rape and other crimes against women. “I will never allow my children to wear those skimpy skirts; I will never pay for such skirts,” he said.

[. . .]

An elderly woman, who did not want to be named for fear of attack, said women should be taught to dress properly. “The way women dress today provokes men.”

She said women are culturally not allowed to expose their body, especially from the waist downward. “They should wear like this,” pointing to her long skirts that reached her ankles.

Indeed, Phineas. Can’t we go back to the good old days when women didn’t try to say that they had a right to not face the constant threat of physical and sexual harm? And when no one gave you dirty looks just because you publicly raped a woman and/or cheered while others did? Uppity bitches.

For fuck’s sake. I’d ask what the hell the world has come to if I wasn’t profoundly aware that it hasn’t “come to” anything — this, apparently, is how the world is. (And as the MRAs might suggest, that’s why we should shut up and learn to live with it.) The only “new” aspect I’m seeing here is the recurring role of taxi driver as rapist. It’s not entirely original, but it also doesn’t seem to generally come up so frequently.

I would like to say, for the record, that the title is somewhat facetious. I don’t want women to be afraid to live their lives freely, and that involves being able to get around town and not constantly looking over you’re shoulder and wondering if every cab driver is a rapist. What I am saying, though, is that the bizarre mountain of cases here, to use extreme understatement, is rather disconcerting. And beyond my horrified awe, I haven’t got the slightest clue how to react.

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{ 3 comments }

1 RhianWren February 19, 2008 at 9:23 pm

I have had a few taxi-drivers that have made me uncomfortable enough that I don’t have taxi drivers drop me right to my house anymore. I generally get them to drop me off down the street, cos I just don’t want them knowing where I live.

Heaven forbid anything like this ever happen! That is totally FUCKED UP.

2 Leah February 20, 2008 at 1:53 am

That’s…not okay. Really I don’t know how else to say it. I wonder how many other obscure terms you could couple with rape to get a bunch of recent results.

I’m sorry.

3 Ladylike February 20, 2008 at 11:11 am

This is slightly off topic, but I’ve always loved the ‘theft of services’ argument. Funny that it only applies to sex workers – and not, say, athletes (boxers, wrestlers and even football players, etc). If those who use the argument were not so blatantly anti-woman, and anti-sex worker in particular, we’d see a number of cases of assault dimissed as ‘theft of services’ because “he gets paid to get hit/tackled/thrown around so clearly he’s just pissed he didn’t get paid this time.”

Even if someone held me down and physically forced me to type a letter (my job involves a lot of letter writing) no one in their right mind would consider that ‘theft of sevices’ – it would be assault plain and simple.

The argument is so transparent I can’t believe that anyone considers it a proper defense.

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