Friday, December 10, 2010

CouchSurfing ignores violence against women.

CouchSurfing is an organization that lets travelers keep costs low by connecting members with other members who let the traveling members stay at their home. Their mission statement from their website reads,

At CouchSurfing International, we envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Building meaningful connections across cultures enables us to respond to diversity with curiosity, appreciation and respect. The appreciation of diversity spreads tolerance and creates a global community.
However, recently they haven't been holding up their mission statement, especially when it comes to the respect of women. recently published a blog with stories from a couple of women describing their very negative experiences with CouchSurfing. One woman, Melissa Ulto, had been repeatedly sexually harassed by her host, and in the end decided she did not feel safe at his house and went to a hotel. Another woman was not able to escape the situation and ended up being held captive and raped by her host.

CouchSurfing's resposne to Ulto? That they had a "higher than usual workload" and that since there were no witnesses they must remain as neutral as possible. In fact, CouchSurfing seems to continuously ignore the various complaints from many women on their own message boards, and only give out the standard response, that members need to look into their potential hosts more closely. The only way it seems to get CouchSurfing's attention is through proof of legal action, where the responsibility is completely on the survivor to lodge a complaint and seek the authorities. In a completely different culture than the one they are accustomed to. Obviously this solution is not effective.

One of CouchSurfing's "Guiding Principles" is
We seek continuous personal development for ourselves and others.
Well, they need to realize that something is wrong with the program, especially in regard to women's safety. They need to start listening to survivor's stories, and develop the program so it no longer is unsafe to participate in. They need to realize that safety is something they need to develop so that the responsibility is not on the member to vigorously search information about potential hosts in hopes that they are not harassed or assaulted. All in all, CouchSurfing needs to step up.

In the end, a lot of people are asking the question, should CouchSurfing be shut down? Does CouchSurfing ignore  the safety complaints of it's members enough that it is no longer a reliable and good service?



  1. As a woman who has travelled across the USA by myself staying with a variety of hosts some of them being single males I think this is crap. Why the hell is a non-profit organistation responsible for other peoples choices.

    1. I hate humans like you: "Yo, if I can't see it/didn't experience it, then it doesn't happen." UGH. Empathy, woman! EFFING EMPATHY! And in this case: Sad that you lack any sisterhood whatsoever.