The stigma that once was associated with online dating seems to have fizzled throughout the years. In the life of busy-bees with less time to meet people “organically,” dating apps seem to be the new norm to find romance. But with this normalization of meeting the “stranger-behind-the-screen,” more and more people are beginning to ask themselves, is this avenue safe?
Online-dating related sexual assault has risen by more than 450% in the past six years, according to a recent report by the U.K’s National Crime Agency (NCA). A study pulled by Statista portal of statistics and studies also found that 61% of Americans ages 18-29 have used an online-dating App within their lifetime, which has nearly tripled in the past decade.
While we occasionally hear of a romance success story, this spike in reported sexual assault crimes has alarmed both App-users and authorities around the world.
A recent Buzzfeed article highlighted a frightening case in which an alleged “Tinder Rapist” told authorities he felt entitled to sex from a female he’d met on the dating app because, “she wanted it and the Tinder application was for that.” While the App is advertised as a way to “meet people,” statements made by the alleged criminal highlights a deeper and more concerning issue surrounding the topic of dating app usage: the assumption that App participation implies sexual consent.
While dating-application crimes are not documented in the same way, or with the same accuracy, in the United States, this growing threat to public safety is becoming a world-wide problem. A dating app study done in Hong Kong found that of nearly 700 students, those who used an online dating application were twice as likely to suffer “sexual abuse” over non-users. While this doesn’t show that app use causes sexual abuse by any means, the authors did note that the association between the two was “alarming.” (Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Quartz.com).
While popular apps have been able to avoid providing statistics on the matter, one thing is clear: meeting strangers through these avenues can expose you to real & serious dangers.
So what can women & men do to protect themselves against sexual assault?
While this article’s intent is not to deter readers from using online dating apps, we do aim to provide knowledge and awareness to these dangers so they can protect themselves. Below are a few tips you can incorporate today to make sure you don’t get yourself in a sticky situation or, if you do, safely get out of one.
Vet your potential date before you meet them
Certain dating apps require users to sync their app profile with their social media profiles. This is a good opportunity to fact check. Look up your potential date on their social media channels and compare the information they’ve shared with you. Is it consistent? Doing this help you identify possible fake profiles, or even highlight untruthful tendencies that can not only save you from a potentially awkward encounter (hello Mr. Not-Like-His-Pictures!), but also a dangerous one. If numerous facts they’ve shared with you are false, don’t be afraid to cut them loose.
If you’re having a hard time finding them by their name, you can use a few features that popular social media channels offer to help the search. These include entering their phone number, emails, full names and nicknames in the search bar. This works for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat and many others. Doing a Google search with these pieces of information can also help find some hidden accounts.
Trust Your Gut
Don’t ignore your instincts. If your gut is telling you something’s off, the likelihood is that it is. Go with your first instinct and don’t be afraid to abandon a date or a conversation if you feel like something isn’t right.
ALWAYS Tell A Friend About A Date
Always make sure to let a friend or family member know when you’re heading to a date and share the location of the meeting point with them, as well as the name of who you are supposed to be meeting with.
You can also temporarily share your location with a friend from your phone (assuming you have a smartphone). Setting aside a “check-in” time with a friend is also a good idea, especially if it’s your first date.
Report Suspicious Behavior
We need to work together to weed out the dangerous creeps. This means reporting suspicious accounts and behavior to authorities, as well as to the App owners themselves. By identifying a profile as fraudulent, we can make it harder for those with ill-intentions to make a user yet another victim. If all users do this, this could be a big step towards a safer user-experience.
Contact Your App Developers Pressuring Them To Add More Security Features!
If enough users talk, they have to listen: supply & demand! If the App you’re using lacks enough security features, take a few minutes to contact their customer service team and request they improve them. Make your voices heard, you deserve it!
Download a Personal Safety Application
There are several safety applications that’ve hit the market in recent years which are compatible with both Google Android & Apple iOS that aim to provide an additional layer of security when you may find yourself in an uncomfortable and/or vulnerable situation. You can find hundreds in your device’s App store by just typing the word “Safety” in the search bar.
If you’re feeling uninspired to look for them on your own, I’ve listed three of the common top picks compatible with both operating systems below:
More tips can be found from Grindr’s website: https://help.grindr.com/hc/en-us/articles/217955357-Safety-Tips.