Author Gary Hibberd
Ever thought of joining an online dating site? Most single people (and many in committed relationships) have. But before you rush off and join up in the hope to meet the love of your life… wait. Read this blog and consider the details carefully.
This week a man has been charged with 7 counts of sexual assault against women he met on ‘Match.com’. Jason Lawrence from Derby, UK was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attacks, which the police believe may be only the tip of the iceberg.
The Dating Game
In a world where we are increasingly living in cyber space it should come as no surprise that 1 in 6 relationships start online and as many as 1 in 5 marriages are a result of online dating. I state this because to be balanced we have to remember that online dating doesn’t always end in such tragic and horrible events as the one outlined here. Sexual assaults aren’t limited to people we meet online, they can happen just as easily after meeting someone in a bar.
Match.com is the UK’s largest dating site with 9 million members in the UK and 92 million worldwide, so we must keep this in context but we must also be vigilant.
It’s a simple fact of life that like most criminals, sexual predators have gone online to find their next victim and being online gives them a number of advantages over the real world, some of which may not be instantly obvious.
Online, we can become whoever we want to be. In a survey conducted by ‘Instant CheckMate’ they revealed some startling facts;
- 80% of online daters ‘fib’ on their profiles
- 51% are already in a committed relationship
- 50% of men lie about their height
- 70% of women lie about their weight
- 42% of men admit to lying in some way about their job
- 16% claim to be better off than they are
- 5% have lied about the places they have visited
- 10% of sex offenders use dating sites to find their next victims
- 25% of rapists were estimated to use dating sites
Online we can project a persona which is how we see ourselves, not how we really are. The ’Super ego’ is projected online and can touch hundreds and thousands of people, all with the click of a button. Which is why online dating is more dangerous than the traditional dating game.
Another advantage which predators put to great effect, is our willingness to share more information online than we would in person. Most online daters have admitted to sharing personal information, stories, emotions and intimate sexual details with someone online within a very short space of time. Something they admit they wouldn’t have done face-to-face.
Terms of Abuse
Whilst Match.com are the latest to be in the spot light about such an attack, it’s worth knowing that (according to National Crimes Agency) rape claims associated to dating sites has increased from 33 claims in 2009 to 184 rape claims in 2014 with 24% of attacks perpetrated against 40 to 50 year olds.
“As a Member you are advised not to assume that any Member Content is accurate. A person may not be who he or she claims to be. You should at all times exercise the same caution you would normally when you meet people. We cannot be liable for false or misleading statements by Members.”
In relation to the case of Jason Lawrence, Match.com said it has the “most heartfelt concern” for the victims. But these words feel a little hollow, when we discover that several victims contacted match.com asking for Lawrence to be removed from the site, but they stated its policy was “to act only on events which we could verify, such as written messages”. However I couldn’t find that statement in their ToS, but I did find under Article 6 (Member Obligations)
As a Member you agree not to:
be aggressive, threatening or harmful in any way towards other Members when meeting in person
As I have stated previously, criminals in all their forms are going online to find their next victim(s). Being aware of what we share and what we are doing online is of vital importance.
For companies like Match.com, they already check members against known sex offenders – but only in the US! Why? Because they were sued by a woman who was sexually assaulted by a man on their site. Lawrence is starting his life sentence this week. I hope the women involved can begin their healing and I only hope Match.com and other dating sites are learning the lessons and start doing what is right BEFORE we have to resort to court cases.
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