Airbnb paid tourist $7m after she was raped at knifepoint at New York home

·2 min read

Airbnb agreed to pay an Australian traveller $7m after she was allegedly raped at knifepoint in a rental unit near Times Square by someone who reportedly had a copy of the keys to the apartment.

The unnamed woman says the rape occurred in 2016 while she and some friends were visiting New York City for New Years Eve. The friends were renting a first-floor apartment on West 37th Street, according to Bloomberg.

The friends said they picked their keys for the rental unit up at a nearby bodega, and noted that they were not asked to show identification. They then went out to party for New Years Eve.

Sometime after midnight – the early hours of New Years Day – the friends returned from partying.

The suspect, Junior Lee, 24, was allegedly hiding in the bathroom after having gained access to the apartment. He allegedly threatened the traveller with a knife and raped her.

Mr Lee was apprehended later that night by police, who found him with a knife, a set of keys to the apartment, and an earring belonging to the woman.

The suspect has been charged with predatory sexual assault and could face life in prison. Mr Lee has pleaded not guilty, but he remains in custody.

Airbnb dispatched "safety agents" to take care of the victim. They moved her to a hotel and flew her mother in from Australia for emotional support. The company also offered to pay any health or counselling costs for the woman.

It was not immediately clear how Mr Lee obtained a key for the unit. Bloomberg reported that the company does not require hosts to use keypad locks and change codes between guests, nor do hosts have to disclose who else has a copy of a unit's key.

Airbnb and the victim's lawyer, Jim Kirk, reached a $7m settlement two years after the rape occurred. In exchange for the $7m, the victim cannot blame or sue Airbnb or the host of the apartment where the incident took place.

“In sexual assault cases, in the settlements we’ve reached, survivors can speak freely about their experiences. This includes the NYC case,” Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit told the New York Post.

He said the company's safety team "worked hard to support the survivor following the horrific attack."

"We proactively reached out to NYPD after the attack to offer our assistance for their investigation, and we helped get her into a hotel," he said. "The priority for our company and our executives was supporting the survivor and doing right by someone who had endured trauma.

The company spends approximately $50m each year on payouts to guests for settling legal disputes or dealing with damage caused to homes.

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