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However, it puts most of that down to increased reporting and better recording by the police.
Better reporting, therefore, might also partly explain why internet dating assaults have increased in the UK.
The trouble is that statistics on crimes linked to online dating are sparse.
In 2016, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) released findings on data from police forces around the country. Not all the forces collect data specific to dating apps.
In the US, the FBI collects data about so-called romance fraud and about online “sexploitation,” but data about physical assault linked to dating sites is scant.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, conducted by the US government, last collected data in 2011 and will publish an update this year, but doesn’t ask questions about online dating.
That’s despite dating advice that stresses the importance of meeting new people in public. A 2016 study of 666 students in Hong Kong found that about half used dating apps, and those who did were twice as likely as non-users to suffer “sexual abuse” of some kind (defined on a scale that included, for example, being coerced into unprotected sex, and rape).
The study didn’t prove that apps led to abuse, the authors wrote, but they found the association “alarming.” They hypothesized that app users might expose themselves more to people who are sexually coercive.
Gregory Dickson, the judge in the Jason Lawrence case, used his in-court comments to call for a system of “automatic referral to the police,” or another agency, when complaints are made to dating companies.But fake profiles abound, sexual predators use the sites, and some common online dating behavior—like meeting alone after scant acquaintance, sharing personal information, and using geolocation—puts users at risk.Dating companies are being pushed to better protect users, but some seem reluctant to do more— or even to talk about whether there’s a problem.In the US, overall incidents of sexual violence have fallen by 63% since 1993, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.By contrast, the UK’s Office for National Statistics has recorded an increase in sexual assaults since 2012.Over the past four years, 17 people in the Greater Manchester area have reported being raped after using one of two apps, Grindr and Tinder, according to police statistics obtained by Leech through a freedom of information request.A total of 58 people were victims of online dating-related crimes in those four years, some of them sexual. For context, in 2012 the area had an overall average of 243 sexual assaults and rapes every month.)Many apps offer a page of advice for safe dating.The online environment could also lull users into thinking they know someone, and therefore making themselves vulnerable.To date, much of the research on online dating has been conducted by dating companies themselves.In the absence of hard data, it’s anecdotes that shape the conversation about online dating safety.In 2016 Stephen Port was convicted in the UK of killing four young men he met on the gay dating app Grindr.