Last year CompStat logged 1,199 reported rapes in New York City. This year, there have been just over 600.

During the summer of 2004, a woman leaving a bar was abducted, robbed and raped. Another nameless statistic, but one that spurred two women to create an organization called RightRides for Women’s Safety. “We knew it could have been one of us, or one of our friends. We had to do something,” described Consuelo Ruybal, co-founder of RightRides.

For the first 18 months, Ruybal and co-founder Oraia Reid, herself a survivor of sexual assault, used their own cell phones and SUV to accept calls and provide safe rides home each Saturday night to women and transgendered women in North Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. They posted fliers in bars, clubs and subway stations to advertise the service.

Since then, RightRides has expanded; Zipcar sponsorship provides six cars, and hundreds of volunteers serve women and LGBT people in 35 neighborhoods. RightRides, a founding member of New Yorkers for Safe Transit, has teamed up with the Center for Anti-Violence Education to offer self defense classes, and offers Safe Walks on Friday nights to escort walkers home safely.

“Especially in large cities like New York, having a safe, inexpensive means of getting home at night is crucial to both a sense of self and community, as well as livelihood if one is returning from work,” commented Casey Dignan, a student at NYU and a RightRides volunteer. Casey and her co-RightRider, Derek Shiau, both heard about RightRides from people who had used the service. All RightRides teams must include at least one female; Derek and Casey frequently team together. “[As] a straight male, I am not the target candidate for Right Rides. But that does not mean I cannot agree and participate in volunteering,” said Derek.

Both Derek and Casey have been involved with volunteering throughout their lives. They each speak enthusiastically about their experience with RightRides: “It’s so great to make a personal connection with the riders,” Casey described. “It really gives me the impression that I truly helped an individual make it home safe. Perhaps I even changed their entire day, if they were having a bad one, or gave them a better impression of the city.” “My favorite part of right rides is definitely driving around the city and picking up new people,” agreed Derek.

“It’s made me much more aware of the dangers that other people in NYC face, and I feel incalculably more connected to a community, which is quite important in a city as large as NY,” added Casey. “10 million people can sound daunting, but if you can put a face on even a few… the city grows much more tangible.”