This article is part of a collaborative series between Roar and It Happens Here KCL aiming to raise awareness about the risks of online dating platforms and offering advice on how to navigate them.
Editor’s note: This article references themes of sexual assault.
Online dating is a staple in most university student’s lives, either to make friends or to find romance. Apps like Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Grindr and more are prevalent among students; they are a major digital phenomenon. Like everything else, however, they do not come without their dangers. Assault and harassment are unfortunately pervasive throughout some online daters’ experiences, from receiving unsolicited explicit pictures, being digitally hacked or scammed, or being lied to or made uncomfortable in real life. This article seeks to make your online dating experience safer, and more enjoyable.
The prospect of meeting people in a new city can be an intimidating one. For many, dating apps enable users to get to know new people and foster a vibrant social life. The sheer popularity of dating apps is striking evidence of the positive opportunities they can offer. A study by Atomik Research found that 63% of single adults in the UK have turned to the internet in their dating search. Allowing users the chance to meet like-minded people, these apps offer a dating pool that expands beyond one’s immediate social circle. Users can also specify what they want to get out of their online experience, whether that is a long-term relationship or a chance to make new friends.
With such a strong prevalence, several alarming issues began to appear. A study by International and Kaspersky Lab found that 55% of users have experienced some form of threat or problem dating online. Therefore it is important to be mindful of the possible dangers to stay safe while engaging with these platforms.
An example of an online danger is the receiving or sending of explicit pictures, either consensually or not. Receiving unsolicited explicit pictures is a form of harassment, and is a common occurrence among dating apps due to the openness people feel communicating online rather than in person. Sending solicited explicit pictures can also be risky as you cannot guarantee what the other person will do with them.
Meeting up with someone you don’t know well can be risky. Unfortunately, a lot of the negative experiences of online dating revolve around this. And it isn’t a distant problem. Following a survey among fellow students at King’s College London conducted by It Happens Here, some students have anonymously provided some examples of dangerous situations they were in when meeting someone online:
“We agreed to get drinks but he kept pushing drinks to me in an attempt to get me drunk and he later feigned being drunk as an excuse to be touchy with me.”
“We went to a bar and i think he spiked my drink as I am usually a heavyweight when it comes to drinking but i got really dizzy after a single cocktail.”
While seeking to raise awareness of these experiences, we also want to provide daters with some tips that can help to protect them if put in an uncomfortable position. If you do choose to meet up in person, consider informing friends about the details of the date such as timings, location, the name of who you are meeting and how to contact you. In the majority of bars, restaurants and clubs asking a member of staff for Angela will alert them to the fact that you feel unsafe or uncomfortable and they will assist you by contacting their trained staff member.
It is often the case that those who experience harassment online, including the use of unsolicited images, pestering, inappropriate jokes, fetishization or intrusive questions, aren’t taken seriously, and are often met with victim blaming. People find it easy to blame someone for having a bad experience online as they typically believe that one should be aware of the dangers, and therefore accept the possibility of being exposed to them. However, one of the most important things to note from our advice is that no matter what negative experience you endure dating online, victims are not to blame and victim-blaming is fundamentally flawed. Being aware of potential dangers does not make you immune to them, but being prepared can help keep you safe so you can relish the joys of online dating.
Clearly, apps like Hinge, Bumble and Tinder have revolutionised the dating scene, with their popularity continuing to grow. While users need to be aware of the possible dangers of online dating, we aim to demonstrate that by making small changes in how we approach these apps, users can still enjoy their online experience safely.
We want to remind survivors of sexual harassment and abuse that they are not to blame for what they have been through, and that they are not alone. Below we have attached various links to safety advice for online dating, as well as support systems and helplines for victims.
Safety tips for online dating:
External Support Services:
The Havens: Specialist centres in London providing medical and emotional support for victims of rape or sexual assault: You can contact them directly or ask for a referral from your GP
Urgent Referrals 24/7: 020 3299 6900
Non-urgent information and referrals: 020 3299 1599 (9-5 Monday to Friday- not public/bank holidays)
24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line: 0808 500 2222
Victim Support: 0808 16 89 111
Revenge Porn Helpline: 0345 6000 459
Male Advice Line: 0808 80 10 327
Male Rape and Abuse Support: 020 3322 1860
Stop NCII: an organisation operated by the Revenge Porn Helpline to remove non-consensual intimate/nude photos posted by others of yourself online and support victims of Non-Consensual Intimate Image abuse (NCII). Available at https://stopncii.org/?lang=en-gb
The full report can be viewed HERE.