Last updated: 08:21 PM ET, Sun August 16 2015

US Teen Accuses Airbnb Host of Assault

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | August 16, 2015

US Teen Accuses Airbnb Host of Assault

Questions regarding the safety of Airbnb, the immensely popular online lodging rental website, have arose once again after a U.S. teen accused a Madrid, Spain apartment host of sexual assault, The Independent reported.

The Independent provided an overview of the incident drawn from The New York Times’ initial published account, which was released on Friday.

His trip to Madrid would mark the second time Jacob Lopez, 19, had used Airbnb after a successful stay at one of the firm’s properties in Brazil. But the situation seems to have taken a bad turn as indicated in a phone call by Lopez to his mother, Michaela Giles.

The teen said his host had locked him inside the apartment and was threatening to perform a sexual act on him, according to The Times, via The Independent.

Giles told The Times she called Airbnb for help, but the staff would not contact the police or reveal the address of the apartment where her son was located. Giles said she was told to contact the police herself and have them call the company instead. But she said the number provided by the staff repeatedly disconnected and she was not able to reach the Airbnb contact.

That night, Lopez said he was sexually assaulted, then freed by his host, The Times stated via The Independent. He has reportedly begun trauma therapy as a result of this incident.

The accused, a woman who recently transitioned genders, denies the accusation and said Lopez is transphobic.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said to The Independent, "… even one incident is one too many, and while no industry has a 100 percent safety record, that’s what we strive for … [we] realize we can learn a lot from this incident and we can do better. We are clarifying our policies so that our team will always contact law enforcement if we are made aware of an emergency situation in progress. Safety is our number one priority and we want to get our hosts and guests as much help as possible."

The spokesperson added that the weekend of the alleged assault more than 800,000 people were staying at Airbnb properties around the world, and 70,000 of those were in Spain.

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