According to the National Crime Agency the number of stranger rape allegations linked to dating websites has soared sixfold in the last five years, and according to Sean Sutton, head of the NCA’s serious crime analysis section, a ‘new breed’ of rapists could be emerging.
As a consequence, a campaign is being launched to raise awareness of the dangers of online dating.
Which isn’t a bad thing.
Of course, anything that highlights the dangers of certain situations and encourages people to be mindful about meeting strangers is a good thing. Although I cant help but think that the results reported as they are, do the online dating industry a bit of an injustice.
After all, there is no mention of the fact that, in the last five years, the number of people using online dating sites has also increased significantly too, with in excess of 9 million people now using online dating sites – it shouldn’t be a given that an increase in incidents are reported as a consequence but, in relation to the amount of people uses online dating sites and apps, the results aren’t as shocking as the NCA would imply.
To suggest that online dating has created a ‘new breed of rapist’ is ridiculous. Being a rapist isn’t something you do because the opportunity to meet people you could potentially rape increases, it’s something you either are or you’re not.
There is no doubt that people are becoming more sexual online and that sexual exchange with near total strangers seems to be far more commonplace – however a bit of sexual banter does not a rapist make.
These statistics are important, but do risk labelling the dating industry as something which has suddenly turned bad and we should all be terrified of.
The truth is, meeting someone online is no less dangerous than agreeing to a date with someone you’ve met in a bar – you’re still putting yourself in a position of risk with a stranger. If anything, meeting someone online means that you have the added reassurance of knowing that there is some sort of paper trail behind your date – dating sites don’t have time to vet every new member but they do request a degree of information about a person when they join and there is record of your online exchange, should the worst happen.
Whether you’re meeting people online or in ‘real life’ the basic rules should be exercised. Make sure someone knows where, and who you’re dating. Don’t go to their house on a first date, get blind drunk or meet them down a dark alley in a derelict housing estate.
I think it’s simplistic to say there’s a new breed of rapist because of online dating and all statistics are relative – if you want to stay safe online use common sense, adult intuition and don’t send a picture of your vagina to someone you’ve never met before.