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TripAdvisor defends handling of rape claims involving hotels on its site

Sixteen months after coming under fire for its handling of claims of sexual assault on its customer forums, TripAdvisor is again defending its policy of not removing a business listing "when something terrible happens."

An article published Tuesday in the British newspaper The Guardian relayed the distress of two women allegedly raped by employees of businesses listed on the travel site. One of the women told the newspaper she objected to TripAdvisor's suggestions that she "recall the humiliating details of my own sexual assault." 

"I was in disbelief," she was quoted as saying. "Was this global company pushing me to relive my trauma on their forum for everyone to see and comment, or worse of all for the perpetrator who is still out there, to respond to me, troll me? It left me feeling shattered, hopeless and alone."  

In an emailed statement, TripAdvisor said "every person impacted by a traveler safety issue, including sexual assault, has the right to write a first-hand account about their experience." It added: "Even a brief, non-descriptive mention that a traveler experienced an assault can serve as a powerful warning to the global travel community."

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TripAdvisor also rejected the suggestion that it no longer list businesses after receiving such complaints, saying "it would be a disservice to the public to remove these listings, and therefore withhold valuable information."

The global travel site also said it monitors news for incidents that pose health and safety issues, and posts related notifications on specific listings, with the duration determined on a case-by-case basis. 

The company made the move in 2017, with the notifications meant to encourage consumers to do more research -- both on and outside of TripAdvisor -- before booking trips. 

Still, TripAdvisor acknowledged that accounts of assault and other serious incidents get pushed lower as more current reviews come in, and said it was working to make such information more prominent. 

The company in the past changed its policy dealing with language not deemed to be family friendly after it learned it was impeding reviews including those relaying cases of sexual assault. 

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