Are there registered or convicted sex offenders on dating apps? Yes.
Most popular dating sites and apps, including Tinder, Hinge, Grindr and Bumble do NOT screen against sex offender registries, DO not conduct background checks and do NOT verify identities. Users just agree through the terms of service that they’ve never been convicted of sex crimes. But criminals lie.
A year ago, Victorian man Glen Hartland was sentenced to nearly 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting three women and indecently assaulting another. He pleaded guilty to the charges, after using dating app Tinder to lure his victims. One of the women has since taken her own life. And if that isn't tragic enough, just Google the subject.
Assaults during meetups arranged via online dating sites and apps have been alarmingly regular in recent years. In fact, just a few weeks ago, Police charged a man in Brisbane with 10 offences including rape, sexual assault, stupefying in order to commit an indictable offence, unlawful stalking, observations or recordings in breach of privacy and drug charges.
The investigation led to the man's arrest after a complaint from a woman who believed her drink might have been spiked after a meeting at the man's apartment. The pair had met on Tinder. Video footage from the man's phone suggests that there could be other victims.
If you’re a single woman looking for a date, please know that predators are actively targeting potential victims through online dating sites and hook-up apps. This is happening right now. In fact, rape and sexual assault figures in Queensland have just hit a five-year high.
Predators come in two types on online dating sites. The first type is looking for a short-term partner — they are likely to abuse you mentally or sexually for a while, and then move on to the next person.
The second type may try to use you as a way to connect with your children, and then to groom them for sex. This is every parent’s worst fear, so don’t disclose that you have children or share any information about them until you know the person well ‘in person’. Always be careful if someone shows too much interest in your children.
Got a Tinder date this weekend? You’re not alone. Tinder has been one of the fastest growing dating apps, changing the way people meet. It's also one of the highest-earning, raking in nearly $2 billion a year. And, amid the loneliness and isolation of COVID-19 lockdowns it has become more popular than ever before, with subscriptions climbing almost 20 percent in the year to June.
A recent survey conducted by Triple Js Hack programme had 400 responses — the majority of which said they had experienced sexual assault or harassment on a dating app. 231 of them had used Tinder, and of the 48 people who complained to Tinder about sexual offences, only 11 received a response.
Victoria's Glen Hartland, who was dubbed the ‘Tinder Rapist' continued to use the app even after he was charged by Police, setting up fake profiles, to continue attracting women.
The lesson here is that access to social media and messaging can give us a false idea of how much we know about other people before we actually meet them. The other issue, of course, is that people can present a carefully cultivated image on social media.
So before heading out on that hot date tonight, we have a few pieces of advice:
💁♀️ Do a little prior extra research on your date beyond what's available on their Facebook or Instagram profile. Perhaps check the validity of their workplace, or aim to find any contacts you might have in common.
💁♀️ Set up a few video chats before meeting face-to-face, and always meet for the first time in a public place.
💁♀️ Be careful not to give out too much personal information until you know each other better.
💁♀️ Make sure a friend or family member knows the details of your date.
💁♀️ Be aware of drink and food spiking
💁♀️ Save and store your app conversation with them before meeting. Many dating apps have an 'unmatch' or 'block' option which removes any evidence of contact with the other person — so backing up your conversation or taking a screenshot of it and storing that outside the app may help you identify them if you want to make a complaint or report a bad experience afterwards.
💁♀️ Have a backup plan. Have your own transport or way home. It’s even safer to take a friend with you on the first meeting. If you feel uncomfortable on a first meeting, make up an excuse and leave (‘Sorry I can’t stay long … I have a meeting in the morning’). You don’t have to stay in a situation to be polite.
💁♀️ Trust your gut feelings. If something does not feel right, then it probably is not right. Don’t second guess yourself — if you are in doubt, leave as soon as possible.
💁♀️ Skill yourself in some basic self defence knowledge and techniques.
Of course, online dating can be fun and safe! Just be sure to use a little planning and care before you pour that glass of wine with your Tinder date tonight 🥂