THE BLOG

Dating Apps, Rape and the Lack of Safety in Online Dating

24/02/2016 12:00 GMT | Updated 23/02/2017 10:12 GMT

In Oslo, Norway 40% of all rapes are connected to the use of dating apps. In the UK there have also been an alarming number of reports of crimes connected to online dating apps. In 2013, there were 55 cases of criminal activity reported and in 2015 this number increased to 412 cases. Social media is connecting people. Unfortunately, not everyone has good intentions.

We need to talk about online dating and crime.

Why isn't the online dating industry forced to check who they let in before they allow people to start using dating apps? Having rapists and criminals pretending to be 'the honest guy' in the world of online dating is just awful.

Would online dating be safer if you had to show your true identity? Online gaming services have identity processes in place that you must satisfy before they let you play. You must prove you are over 18 years old. On most dating sites there is a total lack of identity verification processes.

Is the design of apps wrong to start with? Is the lack of security because the app developers are men and they aren't bothered about security? Or is it because governments around the world have not 'got it'? Maybe because it's harder for a politician to use dating sites so they never get first-hand experiences themselves.

I know that the women-only dating app Her asks its new users to verify that they are who they say they are. Apparently, many men have been trying to get themselves an account on Her in an attempt to fulfil their erotic dreams, so the app needs this process. In the beginning, this was done manually by calling users they suspected were men, now they have developed a technology to make the verification easier.

An idea for the dating industry is that you can still use a username but in the backend you need to be verified using your passport and matching social media networks. It can't be more complicated than being verified for a PayPal business account. Verifying the users on all dating websites and apps should be a vital safety factor.

If you have a verified account and have actually made the effort then you could get a verification badge next to your profile. Verification badges are the small blue symbols with a tick inside them that you see on social media. I'm guessing that these users would be very popular to connect with.

2016-02-23-1456227525-4680125-Onlinedating.jpg

Photo Fotolia © weedezign

Since the major dating apps still haven't got their act together to put safety before profit you have to be cautious about how and where you meet people.

The police suspect that a large number of rapes and crimes go unreported. People feel ashamed after agreeing to meet up with the perpetrator beforehand.

The online world is full of scammers, stalkers and rapists and you need to stay safe. Your own safety is key in all your relationships. If your gut tells you that something is wrong, something probably is. Stay away.

Tips for safer online dating

  • Have a chat about life in general with your potential date before you decide to go further. If the person sounds desperate to meet up the alarm bell is ringing.
  • If your online date asks for money it's fraud. Thousands of people get scammed this way and feel totally embarrassed about it.
  • Some people use a separate mobile phone number for online dating, it makes them feel safer.
  • If you are going to talk over the phone you can call anonymously. Change your settings to 'hide your number' and you won't have to show your real mobile number.
  • Check the person's true identity on social media before you meet up. Ask for their Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles. If they want to keep them secret then you should smell a rat.
  • Always meet in a public place and don't go home to his or invite him home after the first date. There are many men who promise that you will 'only hold hands and kiss and won't even think about having sex', moments later they rape you. That's the experience for far too many women and men.
  • Don't accept a lift home after a date - even if it's raining. The person is still a stranger.
  • A decent man will always respect you if you are safety cautious. A pushy jerk won't.

Read more from me on www.sofiesandell.com and sign up to my Digital Leadership Inspiration newsletter here.