Brighton Girl Guide: How To Stay Safe On Online Dates
Over the last few years there has been a huge surge in online dating and dating apps with now more than 1,400 dating sites in the UK alone. Unfortunately, with this popularity there has also been an increase in the number of violent and sexual incidents relating to online dating.
A National Crime Agency report in February 2016 found that there had been an increase in sexual assaults initiated by online dating contact. Worryingly, crimes mentioning Tinder/ Grindr increased sevenfold within two years: There were 55 reports in England and Wales in 2013, compared to a staggering 412 reported crimes in 2015.
Crimes listed included rape, child grooming and attempted murder. The most common crimes reported were violent or sexual. However, many more cases have gone unreported, hidden by victims who may be too scared or embarrassed to come forward.
Some dating apps have become aware of the potential dangers and have now introduced measures to support their users' personal safety, such as insisting profiles are linked to social media accounts as a way of verifying users' identity.
Asking you for money or donations
Minors using the platform
Users sending harassing or offensive messages
Users behaving inappropriately after meeting in person
Fraudulent registration or profiles.
Spam or solicitation
In addition to this, Tinder also features tips on how to stay safe when meeting offline and promotes sexual health by using protection and having open conversations regarding sexual contact. Bumble, created by female former Tinder executive Whitney Wolfe, claims that it promotes kindness and respect and a safe online community. This can be seen in its specific guidelines regarding profile photos, including:
No photos in bikinis/swimwear indoors.
No pictures in underwear.
No shirtless/underwear Mirror Selfies.
Face must be clearly visible in all photos.
No pornographic material.
With Bumble, women have to initiate the conversation within 24 hours of a match, the recipient then has only 24 hours to respond. The hope is to encourage more open and honest intentions from its users. Match (the most-used dating app in the world) has a cost for users, but comes with some extra options. It allows users to browse 'incognito'. This means that people can only see you, if you have already liked them.
It will also automatically block any profiles which don't match your criteria. Women can award men a 'Super Match', which informs other users that these men are friendly and honest. Match also comes out as the best app for long-term relationships, with 33% of users reporting relationships lasting longer than six months.
The growth in internet access and Smartphone access means that the popularity of online dating apps seems set to continue. The online dating site ‘eharmony’ predicts that over 50% of couples will meet online by 2031. With that in mind, here are some handy tips for keeping safe when meeting face-to-face.
Here are out top things to keep in mind when going on an online date:
Arrange to meet in a busy public place. Try to choose places you're familiar with and avoid any dark, secluded spots.
Don't accept offers for a lift / picking you up at your home. Use your own methods of transportation to and from the date.
Make sure someone (a friend/housemate) knows where you are. You may choose to nip to the loo to text them an update on how your date is going. Give them a rough idea of when you'll be back.
Don't drink too much. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and affects your judgement.
Don't leave your food or drink unattended. Drinks can easily be spiked.
Go home alone, don't go to a stranger's house and don't invite them back to your house. You know very little about this person, do you really want them to know where you live?
Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable at any point during the date, leave.
Report any inappropriate/concerning behaviour to the dating app you're using. Users can be blocked and deleted by the app administrators.
#AskAngela Many bars/restaurants now have posters in their toilets showing their participation in the scheme #AskAngela. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation or your date has taken a turn for the worse, you can go to a member of staff and mention the name Angela, for example ''Is Angela working tonight?'' and they will help get you out of the situation quickly and safely.
Written by Dulcie