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Airbnb paid tourist $7 million after she was raped at knifepoint in New York rental: Report

Safety agents at Airbnb reportedly relocated the rape survivor in a New York hotel, flew her mother overseas from Australia and offered to cover any health or counselling costs.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 16, 2021 03:13 PM IST
New York City: Airbnb wrote a check for $7 million to the rape victim in one of the biggest payouts the company has ever made.(Reuters)

Homestay aggregator Airbnb paid a tourist $7 million after she was allegedly raped at knifepoint in a rental property near Times Square in Manhattan, New York, according to media reports. The unnamed Australian woman said that the rape occurred when she, along with a group of her friends, was visiting New York City to celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2015, reported Bloomberg as part of a wider investigation into safety standards of the vacation rental company.

The victim and her friends picked up the keys to the Airbnb property, popular with tourists in New York where most short-term rentals are illegal, from a nearby shop, according to Bloomberg. The report suggests that a stranger, identified by police as 24-year-old Junior Lee, allegedly raped her at knifepoint after she had returned to the property on her own following the new year celebration.

Police caught the suspect and found three incriminating items, including a set of keys to the apartment. Lee, who has been charged with predatory sexual assault, has pleaded not guilty but remains in custody. After the alleged attack, safety agents at Airbnb relocated the victim in a hotel, flew her mother overseas from Australia and offered to cover any health or counselling costs, reported Bloomberg.

Also Read | Airbnb CEO says travel never going back to the way it was before pandemic

The duplicate keys retrieved from the suspect posed a particular problem for Airbnb and since the attack, the company, according to BBC, has not overhauled its rules on keys and where the apartment hosts may leave them.

Bloomberg said that Airbnb wrote a check for $7 million to the victim in one of the biggest payouts the company has ever made and, as part of the settlement, the Australian woman cannot blame or sue Airbnb or the apartment host.

However, Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit, in a statement to New York Post, insisted that the survivors of sexual assault can speak freely about their experiences as part of the settlements the company has reached, including the Manhattan case.

“We proactively reached out to the NYPD after the attack to offer our assistance for their investigation, and we helped get her into a hotel. The priority for our company and our executives was supporting the survivor and doing right by someone who had endured trauma,” the New York Post quoted the representative as saying.

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