Last week, performance poet and Lyft driver Tro’juan Henderson refused to drive a passenger home, but unlike other recent instances of passengers being denied transportation — ahem — Henderson did so for an excellent reason. The Lyft driver refused to drive a drunk woman who was by herself for her own safety. He posted a video on Twitter to remind viewers that rape culture is real — and that, given the world we live in, it’s incredibly important for people to make sure that intoxicated friends and loved ones stay safe.
In the video, Henderson, who lives in Dallas, recounts an incident wherein he was called to drive someone home. When he arrived at the pick-up spot, two women escorted their friend — who was, by his account, “intoxicated/unconscious” — to the car, and gave him her keys and apartment number. They wanted him to take her to her apartment, unlock her door for her, and take her inside. Henderson refused.
Henderson tells Bustle that the issue here was not that the passenger was drunk — he drives intoxicated people all the time, and having a designated driver on demand is, of course, one of the major perks of using Lyft. But being asked to escort a heavily intoxicated woman into her home when she was alone was a step too far. “Even though I won’t rape or sexually assault somebody, I do think that, as a friend, that’s placing your friend in the possibility of great danger,” he explains in the video. He invited the friends to ride with her, and even offered a reduced fee for the ride back, but they declined.
In the video, Henderson urges people to take care of each other. “I think we should live in a world where men can hold themselves accountable and not touch women, not sexually harass women, not rape women, not follow women, not street harass women,” he says, “…However, we don’t live in that perfect world, so women, when you are out — and even brothers, brothers, too — please take these safety precautions to protect your friends.” Everyone should follow a few simple rules when it comes to intoxicated friends. Make sure they get home safely, don’t have them go alone, and for goodness' sake, don’t put them in a stranger’s car and give the stranger the keys to their home (!).
Henderson tells Bustle that he has been an advocate of survivors of sexual assault since joining the Austin poetry scene about four years ago and working with a nonprofit that supports survivors of intimate partner violence. As a performance poet, he often does workshops on college campuses, and says that he uses that as a platform “to educate young people on what these things look like — What does consent look like? What coercion look like?”
The fact that Henderson’s video is bringing attention to rape culture is a good thing, but as Henderson acknowledges, the fact that it’s gone viral is itself an illustration of the privilege that goes along with a male voice. “What I’m saying about rape culture and sexual assault awareness, privilege, all of these things — what I’m saying is nothing that has not been said before,” he tells Bustle. “I see women on Twitter, TV, books, everything, stating these things every single day. I even see the privilege I have — I said this thing on a video, and it [goes] viral. I know many women on my Twitter timeline who have said some of the same exact things, and they’re shamed. They’re told they’re crazy.”
“I believe we live in a very male-dominated world. I believe we have to recognize our privilege,” Henderson says. And for that very reason, he suggests, men need to speak out about sexual assault. “Why don’t we use that opportunity to actually educate?” he asks, adding, “It’s also [men’s] job to be open to the conversation, to be open to self-accountability, to be open to growing, and open to changing.”