Valentines Day is around the corner and people are struggling to find love or someone to at least tag along with on lover’s day, and online dating sites or apps are well-established methods of meeting people in this digital age. However, rapes related to online dating increased by nearly a factor of six — from 33 in 2009 to 184 in 2014 — according to a report released Monday by National Crime Agency.
More than 8 million people around the world are registered to either one or two dating sites thus increasing the chances of welcoming strangers in their homes
Online dating sites provide easy and convenient services to enable people find online love, which may lead to concrete relationships or tragedy. Sexual offenders or silent killers are now hiding behind their computers targeting the vulnerable group of people who are not able to go out and search for partners.
The report provides that, these offenders are less likely to already have a criminal record than stranger rapists. They exploit their access to potential victims and establish trust before meeting. Attacks mostly were committed during the first face-to-face meetings after contact was made through dating sites or apps. Eighty-five percent of victims were female.
Online dating started in 1995 when a paid site Match.com was developed. Nowadays, casual hook-up apps are trending; like Tinder and Grindr.
The National Crime Agency said online relationships tend to progress more quickly than those offline, and emotional intimacy often leads to people feeling that they are at a more advanced stage of a relationship by the time they meet in real life. In more than half of online-connected date rapes recorded between 2003 and 2015, communications of a sexual nature preceded a real-life meeting.
In spite of the safety warnings issued by dating services, police and rape-prevention groups, many people choose not to have their first meeting in a public place. The date-rape statistics show that in 41 percent of cases, the victim and offender started their date at a private residence and that 72 percent of the rapes were committed a private residence.
“A rape victim is never at fault, and we do not want the circumstances in which these assaults take place to cause any victim to doubt that,” said Sean Sutton, head of the National Crime Agency’s Serious Crimes Analysis Section. “Sexual assault is a crime, full stop, and we want victims to feel confident reporting it to the police.”