There’s certainly no one “profile” for all sexual predators. Our readers may have heard about the cardiologist who has been charged with drugging and sexual assaulting multiple women he met through dating apps. He pleaded not guilty to 40+ charges.
The women who have come forward say he drugged them either at his home or at restaurants while on dates. Victims have testified that the last thing they remember was playing Jenga and drinking tequila.
There’s no question that dating apps have increased opportunities for people to meet and feel like they know someone they’ve only communicated with online before spending time with them in real life. Of course, skilled predators can present themselves as someone very different than they really are. Some even pretend to be a completely different (usually fictitious) person. This is known as “catfishing.”
Spotting “vulnerable victims”
The lead author of a study on the subject at Brigham Young University (BYU) says that “violent sexual predators use dating apps as hunting grounds for vulnerable victims.” The BYU nursing professor notes that rapes by those who met their victims online tended to be very violent – with some involving strangulation.
Interestingly, those who met their victims through apps seemed to zero in on the most vulnerable. Some 60% of the victims reported already having some form of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The professor explains, “It may be that these victims are just more likely to be swayed by someone who provides false flattery….” College students were also found to be frequent victims of sexual assaults by people they met on dating apps.
What’s the responsibility of dating app providers?
What role do the companies behind the dating apps play in this, and what can they do to protect their users? The Match Group, which owns multiple dating apps, says it’s invested in safety features like allowing members to do online background checks.
Some lawmakers are starting to address the problem. Our neighbors in Utah have passed a law requiring dating apps to notify users if someone is suspected of using a false identity as well as providing them with safety guidance and a way to report assault.
It can be challenging to hold a dating app provider liable for a sexual assault. However, people are taking legal action against them in some cases. It’s worth considering all of the parties who may have some culpability in a sexual assault.