By Vasiliki Theodosiou,
It took six years, a “not guilty” plea and 7 million dollars until that story finally reached the media, but the news came as shockingly as they would have come a few years back. During the first hours of 2015 a female from Australia chose to return to the Manhattan Airbnb apartment she had rented with her friends. She did so by herself leaving the others to continue celebrating the new year at a bar. Upon her return she was attacked and raped by a stranger who had hidden in the apartment’s bathroom who was later discovered to have in his possession a pair of keys enabling him to access the place whenever he wished to.
After the incident, no reports on it could be found online or in the press and no mention of the company was made throughout the preliminary court procedures. Airbnb offered to the victim a hotel room, covered for her expenses to return to Australia along with any other costs related to her access to recovery services and later on offered her a 7-million-dollar check in exchange for her silence.
Reflecting on the incident and our current ability to do so in the first place, it is evident that all companies wish to protect their image and reputation. The company under discussion and its very survival is based on the principle of exchanging money, keys and properties between strangers. Therefore, an incident where the stranger factor is proven to be fairly close to lethal would have been inherently problematic for the company’s position. But the question is whether its attempt to cover it up and the fact that this attempt is now public knowledge is even more damaging to its so-called reputation after the initial event.
Rape as a crime is known for being under-reported by victims due to their fear of coming forward and facing society, courts and the police while reliving their experience on a daily basis. And the fact that once more a part of this society, despite its corporational and organisational character, chooses to sweep such matters under the carpet serves as yet another reminder of how morality and doing business are not always compatible as well as of how rape victim’s voices are not always heard but rather dismissed.
The response of the company to these allegations came with the claim of an effort to protect the victim and respect their privacy but fails to address how this might not even be the first time that such events have unfolded within its jurisdiction and definitely not the last either. The very principle and introduction of a specific group within the company that is meant to deal with similar cases making sure that they do not become known could be regarded as problematic in the sense that the lack of knowledge on the matter could lead to more people using such services while being off guard and as a result to more individuals getting victimised in the future.
From guests discovering bloodstains in their rented rooms to unauthorised parties and fatal shootings the lines between doing or not the right thing are blurred and so are the lines between doing business and protecting people’s integrity, safety and moral code.
- Airbnb Is Spending Millions of Dollars to Make Nightmares Go Away. Bloomerg. Available here.
- Secretive ‘black box’ Airbnb team paid an Australian woman $7million after she was raped in New York apartment – as it’s revealed how attacker got into property. Mail Online. Available here.
- Airbnb Reportedly Paid a Rape Victim $7 Million for Silence on Settlement. Vice. Available here.