Gloucestershire Constabulary have been carrying out a sexual violence campaign after seeing a rise in reports of crimes carried out by strangers who met on dating apps.
Since January this year there have been ten recorded cases of sexual violence in the county after meetings between the offender and victim were facilitated through dating apps such as Tinder or Plenty of Fish (POF).
Online dating is relatively safe, but it can give individuals an increased feeling of trust, causing them to no longer view the person they are meeting as a stranger.
The Constabulary have recently given advice to over 500 daters on Tinder about consent and how to stay safe. A webpage has been set up specifically to provide this information.
From January to July last year there were four reports of crimes in relation to dating apps, whereas this figure has more than doubled in the same time period this year.
The rise in incidents reported to us mirrors an increase which has been seen across the country.
One online dating case we're aware of this year involved a female who felt she wanted to meet a male she was talking to. He offered to cook for her and so she went to his flat. While at this male's flat she was asked to wait in his bedroom while he cooked. At some point she lost consciousness after being drugged. She was then sexually assaulted without her consent and told upon waking up that he hadn’t done anything she wouldn't have wanted to.
Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual contact or harassment such as groping someone, pressurising, or forcing them to have sex when they haven't given consent.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Chicken, the lead for Rape and Serious Sexual Offences, said: "My concerns around dating sites such as Tinder and POF are that because people have been chatting online it makes them feel safe, but actually it's no different to meeting a stranger.
"It worries me in Gloucestershire that some people aren't taking the necessary precautions when meeting others after talking online.
"When dating apps are used, although the majority of time they're safe, online daters should take appropriate steps to make sure they stay safe.
"The message we're sending to everyone is that just because you have been swapping flirtatious messages it doesn't mean when you do meet up that sex is on the cards.
"If you have been a victim of rape or a serious sexual assault, it’s important to know it’s not your fault and I’d encourage you to talk to someone."
Every rape reported to Gloucestershire Constabulary this year, where people met through a dating app, took place at a residential property where they had met for the first time.
Dating websites have made finding relationships more convenient and potentially easier for many.
With this in mind the Constabulary don't want to warn people away from dating sites, but just to take the advice on board and stay safe.
Louise Williams, service director at Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (GRASAC), said: "With society as it is today and with modern technology there are more opportunities to meet people for relationship purposes, for social purposes or for sex.
"What we would ask you to do is think about your expectations for why you're going to meet somebody through online dating.
"Your expectations and your intentions might be completely different from theirs."
GRASAC is a charity based in Gloucestershire which supports survivors of rape, childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault.
Gloucestershire Constabulary also has specially trained officers to support victims and will investigate any report of rape or sexual assault.
In a non-emergency situation call police on 101 or email email@example.com or call 999 in an emergency.
Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre support women dealing with the effects of rape and sexual abuse. Call them on 01452 526770 or visit their website www.glosrasac.org/
Specialist medical and forensic services for victims of rape and sexual assault are available at Hope House Sexual Assault Referral Centre. Call them on 01452 754390 or visit www.glos-care.nhs.uk/our-services/specialist-care/sexual-health/sexual-assault-referral-centre
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