Of course, sexual assaults related to online dating may be on the rise just because online dating itself is on the rise.
But here’s one telling, albeit only suggestive, comparison: The Pew Research Center found that between 20 the proportion of American adults using dating services tripled.
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.
In the absence of hard data, it’s anecdotes that shape the conversation about online dating safety.
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.
John Leech thinks the situation is new, and dangerous.
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.
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.
But Leech wants other protections, like giving users alerts about potential risks before they ever begin chatting with strangers.
The online dating industry is a .1 billion business, with niche dating sites claiming more and more of that market share.
Thanks to a crop of niche dating websites, you can find your ideal mate based on very specific criteria.