Massachusetts Man Alleges That He Was Raped At Airbnb In Madrid After The Company Refused To Act On Pleas For Help From His Mother

UnknownAirbnb is a growing phenomenon as people rent out their homes and apartments as an alternative to hotels: often giving visitors more room and costing less than hotels. (For the record, we recently used Airbnb to rent a house in California) A recent case in Madrid has shown the inherent danger in such sites. On July 4th, Jacob Lopez called his mother on her cellphone in a desperate call for help. He said that when he arrived at his Airbnb, he found his host in the apartment who locked him in a room and demanded sex from him. The mother, Micaela Giles reportedly tried to get Airbnb to act but they refused and told her to call police.

The mother called but its employees would not give her the address and would not call the police. Instead they gave her the number of the Madrid police, which turned out to reach a recording in Spanish that she did not understand. When she tried to call Airbnb back, she simply reached voice mail.

In the meantime, her son was allegedly raped and eventually says that he was able to convince his host to let him go. He returned to Massachusetts and is in trauma therapy. The host was born a male but lives as a woman. She has denied threatening Lopez and says that the sex was consensual and that Lopez is transphobic.

It seems a rather curious way to dealing with transphobia: to repeatedly call for help and then file an official report.

It is not clear what the Spanish police are going to do with regard to the alleged culprit but the case does raise the question of the liability for Airbnb. I can understand the reluctance to share an address with a caller for privacy reasons. However, there are a host of things that Airbnb could do from contacting the host to contacting the police for the mother to staying involved with the mother to help in a myriad of different ways. The responses, as described by the mother, seem grossly negligent.

Lopez says that he had a good experience with Airbnb in Brazil but then faced the nightmare in Madrid. After locking him in, the host allegedly told him to take his pants and tried to kiss him. By the time his mother realized that Airbnb would not help and that she would have to get the address from her son, she says that his host had cut off Internet access.

After the alleged assault,Lopez made up a story that he had friends nearby who would be looking for him or would call the police. He says that the host relented and let him leave.

He gave a report to the police, who visited the host. He says that they expect the host to be exonerated by police. That seems a bit odd when you have not just the alleged victim but a witness in the mother with contemporaneous calls from her son. There are also calls to Airbnb. That is more than some “he said/she said” case.

For Airbnb’s part, the company had a curious response. It said that Airbnb wants sexual assault victims to be able to decide for themselves when, how or if to report a crime. Really? A mother calls to say that she just got a call from her son asking for help (the only source of such information) and you wanted to be sure that he wanted to report the crime? Airbnb added that it “believed that the assault had already taken place.” Again, so what? The mother was saying that her son was trapped and that there was a rapist in the unit.

Nick Papas, a company spokesman, “We realize we can learn a lot from this incident and we can do better.” Yes, Mr. Papas, there is clear since your company did nothing all. However, that learning curve may be hastened with a lawsuit.

On a side note, I recently had dealings with Airbnb when I tried to inquire with their media office about their registration process. I was surprised to find that people are asked to register through their email but, when you look at the details of what that means, Airbnb says that it includes the right “to manage your contacts.” When you hit the information link on what that means, it just repeats “manage your contacts.” For lawyers particularly, such a note is unnerving. I wrote to Airbnb to ask why they would have to have any access to contacts at all and why they did not explain what this meant. Airbnb did not answer despite my interest in writing about it. I am still interested in receiving a response since this would seem a barrier for many professionals but it also seems entirely unnecessary and opportunistic (You can register by use of a video, but that process was also crudely structured and odd to use. I used it but it lacked basic features to confirm that the video was submitted and information on the aspects of the process going forward).

39 thoughts on “Massachusetts Man Alleges That He Was Raped At Airbnb In Madrid After The Company Refused To Act On Pleas For Help From His Mother”

  1. jonjacobschmidt Some of us are looking @ this logically and through the prism of litigation. What you call “victim blaming” is what is really contributory negligence. In a lawsuit, the negligence contributed by the plaintiff is factored in by the jury. And, I was not blaming the victim, I was blaming the victim’s mother. Again, from a litigation perspective, if AirBnB did, as you state, changed their policy as a result of this incident well, good on them. And, you should be made aware, when a defendant makes changes in safety policy as a result of a lawsuit, that change cannot be used against them. That rule is just. You would not want companies not making warranted safety related changes because it would be incriminating.

    Finally, regarding the “he said, she said.” There are many documented instances where men start having consensual sex w/ someone they believe to be a woman. As one ex baseball player who got caught w/ a “Lola”[Kink’s reference] said, “She would only do oral sex, that should have been a clue.” When these duped men find out there is not a vagina but a johnson in the panties, the duped man often gets angry/violent or ashamed and vindictive. I don’t know if that’s what’s in play here. I do know that is a common scenario.

  2. There are lots of articles about this, and information is available. People above don’t have to guess.

    He had just arrived in Madrid after a long plane trip, and was met at the train station and walked to the upper floor apartment.
    He was locked into the whole apartment with some sort of keyed lock.
    (At this point my wife pipes up and says, “that’s kidnapping, why aren’t the media calling it kidnapping?”)
    He was using his phone to translate, and in between sneaked messages to his mom asking for help while the perp wasn’t looking.

    And Unsubstantiated??? AirBnB VERIFIES that the phone interaction with the mom took place. This isn’t he said/she said about AirBnB, they all agree that she called trying to get help while her son was being assaulted. Also substantiating it is the fact that AirBnB has made significant changes to their policies and procedures.

    The problem here isn’t what this kid or his mom did or didn’t know or do, that’s victim blaming.
    There are two problems.
    One – someone imprisoned and assaulted a 19 year old young man. (She says she didn’t. Really, this is the only he said/she said of the whole situation)
    Two – The only people who knew where he was and had freedom to speak aloud safely and had Spanish speaking staff who could have called police were at AirBnB.

  3. I have a lot of concerns with house sharing arrangements. What if the owner is a pervert and have cameras in the shower or worse, are doing live streaming for pay? What if they do too much alcohol or certain drugs, or are plain psychos and threaten my safety? There are one too may scenarios that can happen compared to a established hotels. No thanks.

  4. When you are bent, you are bent.
    You are bent all the way.
    From your first mineret to your last dying day.

    So now the victim is done for life. All because of a bad hotel choice. He should have used Choice Hotels.

  5. dutch, Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen down the Rabbit Hole when I read comments here. It’s nice to have another critical thinker to converse with. Let’s go w/ some deductive reasoning. OBVIOUSLY, this 19 year old kid knew the address of this house, otherwise he could not have GOTTEN THERE! Whether it’s my 19 year old kid, or my father, sister, friend, etc. I would make sure I knew the address where they were staying overseas PRIOR to them going. That OBVIOUSLY did not happen. I say for certain we have parental malpractice. Maybe there is negligence by AirBnB, but @ this point, WE DO NOT KNOW THAT!

  6. You’re right Nick Spinelli. It is unsubstantiated. We don.t have enough information And yes, the story is bizarre. Someone is not giving us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

  7. Across the nation, cities that have ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have shown significant improvement in DUI arrests. They are down double digit percentages in most US cities. Making it easier and cheaper to get a ride SAVES LIVES.

    It’s fascinating that allegedly intelligent people read one bizarre and to date UNSUBSTANTIATED anecdote about a company and they are ready to destroy the company. Indeed some want to destroy the entire industry of home sharing. We have a mixed up Canadian who comments here trolling this cartoon video on different threads. He has lost arguments so he is trying to be cutting edge, using 40 year old video clips. Pitiful really.

    Ride sharing, home sharing, etc. ARE ECOLOGICAL. Amazing, people who claim to be environmental can’t think even a little bit outside their myopic box and see this.

  8. texting his call for help because he didn’t want the perp to hear him trying to arrange a rescue.

    This actually makes the most logical sense on why his mother was contacting the police.

  9. Max-1, as I understand, it mainly happens with lesbians, but also with hetero men. Males who have assumed a female identity call themselves lesbians, and then call actual lesbians “transphobic” for wanting to limit their sexual/romantic partners to biological females. The trans males think that even though their male genitalia is intact, as long as they identify as women, that is all it should take for lesbians to be attracted to them sexually. Apparently this has become quite a point of contention between the two groups.

    Anyway, back to the story at hand, I agree that the victim probably was not a Spanish-speaker or prepared with the Madrid-equivalent of 911, and perhaps was hoping his mom could do something on her end. I saw this story on another website, and IIRC it mentioned something about him texting his call for help because he didn’t want the perp to hear him trying to arrange a rescue.

  10. Max-1

    Even if someone knew how to contact emergency services over the telephone in a foreign country, that still doesn’t solve the problem of being able to communicate the problem in a coherent manner once that contact is made. One has to hope and pray that the dispatcher, on the other end of the phone, has at least some rudimentary grasp of the English language.

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