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Woman Tells TripAdvisor She Was Raped by Tour Guide, TripAdvisor Tells Her to Leave Negative Review

TripAdvisor has been accused of failing to protect its users after two women complained of being raped by staff of companies promoted on the travel information website.

According to emails seen by The Guardian, one woman—named only as “K”—contacted TripAdvisor to complain of a sexual assault by a tour guide but was simply told to leave a bad review for the guide on the website. TripAdvisor refused to remove the company from its online listings.

K told the hotel in question about the attack and filed a police report, and then told TripAdvisor she wished to warn fellow tourists of the potential danger. But the company simply suggested she leave a first-person review on the website detailing the assault.

“I was in disbelief,” she told the Guardian. “Am I seriously being asked to recall the humiliating details of my own sexual assault? Was this global company pushing me to relive my trauma on their forum for everyone to see and comment, or worse of all for the perpetrator who is still out there, to respond to me, troll me?”

“It left me feeling shattered, hopeless and alone,” she added.

The company—whose website is visited by 456 million people each month—told K its policy was not to remove a business from its listings, either temporarily to allow for investigation or permanently, when a staff member is accused of sexual assault or rape.

TripAdvisor even sent her five examples of reviews detailing similar sexual assault and rape experiences that took place at other hotels, apparently as a guide to writing her own.

But even when K did submit a review, it was not published because it was not written in a first-person style. When K told the company she wanted to avoid being contacted by trolls—potentially including her attacker—TripAdvisor suggested she set up an anonymous account to post her review.

One of the five other reviews shared with K was written by an 18-year-old woman who said she had her drink spiked and was raped while staying at a resort in Jamaica. The woman even said the hotel had launched a legal case against her to dispute the accusation, which was supported by a rape test at a local hospital.

The resort in question still has a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 on the website, and TripAdvisor failed to add any warning or note for other travelers considering staying there. The woman’s complaint is lost among the more than 5,000 reviews.

Another woman—Christine Dayman, 44, from Toronto, Canada—said her review detailing a sexual assault by a security guard at the Grand Bahia Principe Turquesa hotel in the Dominican Republic was buried by the more than 2,600 review by other guests.

The resort is currently rated 4 out of 5 stars, and Dayman told CBC she felt her complaint was not taken seriously by staff.

“They definitely should have a different kind of review system, for these types of incidences so they’re not buried in with everyone’s reviews about you know, the quality of the towels or the sheets,” she told the Guardian. “Especially if it’s a safety issue, particularly for women.”

The newspaper claimed to have found 40 other examples of reviews describing sexual assault, rape and groping committed by staff members of hotels and other listed businesses. The companies replied in only 14 cases, and just one indicated that an accused staff member had been disciplined.

In 2017, TripAdvisor came under fire for deleting a review describing a rape incident at a hotel in Mexico. In response, it committed to adding warning flags to hotels where “health, discrimination and safety” issues had been reported.

The time limit for the warning note was to be decided on a case-by-case basis, but the company said a three-month period would be the guideline period before the business was reevaluated. However, TripAdvisor said it would not specify why the warning had been put on the hotel in question.

“TripAdvisor has a major platform and really they have a duty for public safety, because it is a big problem,” Dayman said. “I’m not overstating it when I say it’s widespread,” adding that she had been contacted by many other women who had had similar experiences.

A TripAdvisor spokesperson told Newsweek it is a “a horrible tragedy when someone experiences a safety issue like a sexual or physical assault. TripAdvisor exists as an informational review platform for travelers to post their experiences, including incidents of traveler safety.   

“Having a business listing on our platform isn’t an endorsement of that business,” the spokesperson added. “It would be a disservice to the public to remove these listings, and therefore withhold valuable information. Allowing a business to operate in the shadows, without having a transparent record of travelers’ experiences at that location, potentially puts travelers at risk.”

The spokesperson explained that TripAdvisor “believes that every person impacted by a traveler safety issue, including sexual assault, has the right to write a first-hand account about their experience. Even a brief, non-descriptive mention that a traveler experienced an assault can serve as a powerful warning to the global travel community.”

“TripAdvisor works to find the right balance between honoring a victim’s privacy and making sure our platform is helpful to travelers,” the spokesperson continued. “The health and safety of travelers is a responsibility we take very seriously. We believe that empowering the global travel community with as much information as possible to inform their decisions is an important role we play as a business in keeping people safe.”

Updated | This article has been updated to include comments from a TripAdvisor spokesperson.

Tripadvisor rape review Visitors at a TripAdvisor stand during the International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid, Spain, on January 22, 2014. A petition launched by a tourist who said she was raped while on a guided tour listed on the TripAdvisor website has gathered steam, with tens of thousands of people demanding the travel review website strengthen its user safety policy. GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

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