CHICAGO -- A Chicago native is at the center of a national story over rideshare safety. She’s one of seven victims linked to a man accused of posing as a rideshare driver in Los Angeles and assaulting them. Police fear there may be others who have not come forward yet.
The man currently faces 27 felony counts for the attacks. She’s hoping her story serves as a warning to others.
It’s been a tough year for 29-year-old Carla Westland, and a tough month. She recently found out that Nicolas Morales, 44, was arrested and accused of sexually assaulting her and six others.
“I was so sad I couldn’t believe that he had done this to somebody else but at the same time this was information I had been waiting to hear for over a year,” Westland said.
It was January of last year when she left a party, hopped in what she thought was an Uber and fell asleep.
“ I woke up, we were parked somewhere in a driveway and he was banging my head against the seat,” she said. She fought the driver for the better part of three hours until he eventually let her go.
“After the assault took place I could tell that consequences were starting to hit him,” she said. “When I got out of the car, that’s when everything hits me and I was just so hysterical and stuttering.”
Westland went to a hospital. They took what DNA evidence they could, but she never thought they’d find him.
In the last few weeks came a break in the case. The DNA matched that of six other victims and Morales was arrested.
“This is so rare that you actually find the rapist and that he go to jail for 300 years to life,” she said.
The case has traveled the country. Westland admits she never checked that the license plate matched what was on the app and got into the car trusting that the driver was who he said he was. It’s her biggest warning to people.
“This is an issue that we are getting into people’s cars that are strangers and they can do whatever they want once you’re in their car. I think we’ve become a little too comfortable with it,” she said.
Emotionally, she’s doing better but it’s been a difficult road. She’s spent this year speaking up about sexual abuse and harassment after experiencing everything that comes with an assault like this.
“I hope that rape eventually stops and it’s never seen as the victims, the survivors fault,” she said.
In Chicago, the city is working on imposing a regulation that would require the passenger to hit a button verifying that the driver matches the picture on the app before that vehicle can take off.
Bond is set at just over $10 million for Morales.
Westland has been working with the organization Pave. For more information, visit their website.