Sharp rise in rapes and assaults linked to dating apps

holding hands - Carol Yepes

holding hands – Carol Yepes

The Telegraph may reveal that thousands of rape, sexual assault and stalking cases are linked to dating practices that have skyrocketed over the past five years.

An investigation by this newspaper revealed that 8,366 reports of looting crimes involving dating apps, including Tinder and Bumble, have been reported since the beginning of 2017.

Harassment and the deliberate application of a substance, more commonly known as spikes, was also part of a search of police databases from 29 forces in England and Wales.

The Telegraph’s analysis revealed a sharp increase in the number of police cases linked to the apps, increasing 175 percent from 699 in 2017 to 1,922 in 2021.

In January last year, a trainee paramedic was sentenced to at least 12 years in prison at Teesside Crown Court for raping five women he met on Tinder.

Tom Rodwell, 31, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of rape against five victims in a three-year period between 2017 and 2020.

Last July, Prince Darkwa, 26, from Camberley, Surrey, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for raping two women he met on Tinder.

He persuaded his victims to allow him to accompany them to their homes where he carried out his attacks.

“Acts of violence disproportionately affect women”

It has led campaigners to warn that they are equipped with “another tool”, giving hunters an easy way to target multiple women and girls at once.

They also urged the developers of dating apps to put security at the forefront of their business, including a zero-tolerance approach to deviant users.

Victims have previously complained that their security concerns are not taken seriously enough by platforms, and a recent survey revealed that almost half of people reported that someone was dissatisfied with the response.

A study this year by the UK’s National Crime Agency, known as the FBI, found that the proportion of female victims younger than 19 who had been sexually assaulted by someone they met through a dating app increased from 12 percent to 22 percent since 2016.

Andrea Simon, director of the Coalition to End Violence against Women, told The Telegraph: “Dating apps are a really popular way for people to meet each other, but there’s also something really alarming about the way perpetrators use it to meet potential victims, so it’s shocking. While devastating, the high number of rapes, harassment, sexual assault and stalking linked to dating practices is not surprising.These acts of violence disproportionately affect women.

“We expect women’s right to be free from abuse to be incorporated into the design of any app and its services. At the very least, this may seem like quick and appropriate responses to online abuse reports and adequate content moderation so that victims’ reports are evaluated by a person rather than by artificial intelligence.

“We must recognize that tech companies ultimately profit from a business model that ignores the abuse their services provide.”

‘Perpetrators are equipped with another tool’

He added that the group is calling for a code of practice to be included in the Online Safety Act for tech companies to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.

Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis, said: “It is unclear whether dating practices are directly leading to an increase in rates of sexual violence against women and girls. But it sure gives perpetrators another tool to target potential victims – and one that gives them an easy way to target multiple women and girls at once and reach women and girls they might not otherwise come into contact with. .

“Protecting women and girls from sexual violence should be the number one priority of dating apps – there is absolutely no room for excuses when companies make money from online dating.

“Dating apps should have a zero-tolerance approach to sexually offensive and abusive customers, and strong messages that clarify this approach. Companies also need to make sure they are truly effective tools for reporting sexually inappropriate behavior or other behavior that makes their customers uncomfortable.”

‘More responsibility for tech companies’

She urged the tech industry to work with violence against women and girls experts to “identify risks of abuse at the design stage.”

“We also need to see greater accountability for tech companies, force them to address sexual violence on their platforms, and create penalties for those who prevent it and fail to respond,” he added.

A spokesperson for Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, said the platform is building a moderation system that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to “help prevent and disrupt harm,” along with human moderators to probe users.

“Match Group has also created an industry-first law enforcement portal with a dedicated team to respond to information requests from law enforcement and provide them with information during an investigation,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Bumble said: “At Bumble, we take the safety of our members and any alleged or otherwise violation of our guidelines very seriously. Rooted in kindness, respect, inclusivity and accountability, and tolerance of physical abuse, gender-based violence and/or sexual violence We encourage a community that doesn’t show.

“We are saddened by the statistics you have shared. As a platform dedicated to helping people build safe and healthy relationships, women’s safety is one of our top priorities. We continually invest in partnerships, products and programs that prevent harm that disproportionately affects women and increase the safety of our members.”

The tech company said it has taken a number of measures to address safety, including an online trauma support program and a partnership with a campaign group fighting to end revenge porn.

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