The rise in online dating and sexual assaults:
Online dating apps and websites are now used by millions of us looking to meet other people. In fact, research carried out by TSB in February 2017 found that 33% of adults in the UK have used them.
Apps and websites such as Tinder, Match.com, Plenty of Fish and Grindr can often break-down traditional barriers to meeting other people, providing the start of a relationship many people are looking for.
Online dating in general is relatively safe, but sadly that’s not always the case. In Gloucestershire, and nationally, we’re seeing a rise in the number of sexual assaults taking place after meeting someone, from online dating, for the first time.
To help protect those of you using these online dating services, we’ve come up with a number of safer dating tips for the first time you meet someone. We also have some information about sexual consent further down that we believe is really important for you to understand before meeting someone.
Dating tips when meeting for the very first time:
Our advice when meeting someone for the first time that you’ve met online is to always meet them somewhere public.
Online communication often increases trust and intimacy. You may have been messaging someone for weeks, spoken to them on the phone and really feel like you trust them. They’re still a stranger. Television shows like MTV’s Catfish highlights just how much you can be persuaded into trusting someone you’ve never met in real-life.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) published a report in 2016 showing that 72% of all sexual offences took place at either the victim’s or offender’s residence. Out of the cases studied, 41% of them first started at a private residence and not in a public place.
Females made up 85% of the victims and males 15%.
Here are our dating tips for meeting someone for the first time:
- Always meet for the first time in public.
If you’re not happy with the person you’ve met it’s much easier to leave and have other people help you to if it’s required.
- Get as much information beforehand.
Find out their full name, age, their mobile number, where they live and work.
- Search for them online.
Use a search engine to find out more about them. Most people have a digital footprint of some kind. Do they have social media accounts? What are their online likes and who do they associate with?
- Tell other people.
Let other people know where you’re going and who you’re meeting. Write down the information about your date and give it to someone else.
- Tell the other person what you expect from your meeting.
You might be going for drinks and food. They might be thinking you want to have sex when you don’t. Be clear about what they should expect for the first meeting.
- Choose to meet somewhere you can ask for Angela.
There are a number of venues in Gloucester and Cheltenham where staff are aware that if someone ‘Asks for Angela’ the person asking needs some help safely getting away from a person they’re with. See this website for some of the venues that offer this: https://www.safergloucester.co.uk/Projects/Projects_Archive/Ask_Angela.aspx
- Travel separately and never feel pressurised to go somewhere private.
If you’re not comfortable don’t go somewhere private. End the meeting and leave alone.
Consent – only you have the right to choose:
Consent is yours to give, refuse and remove at any time, every time.
Consent can only be given when you have freely chosen to give it. If someone is pressurising you to consent then you are not freely consenting.
Just because someone has been messaging, flirting, sexting, and being suggestive with you does not mean that when you do meet they consent to, or that they want to, have sex with you.
Gloucestershire Constabulary takes allegations of rape and sexual assault seriously. We will always push for the maximum penalties for those who commit these crimes.
Sex without free consent is rape.
Knowing what to do if you’re sexually assaulted:
If you become a victim of a sexual assault it can be difficult to know what to do next. Support is available for you. If you’ve been sexually assaulted it isn’t your fault and you won’t be blamed. No-one has the right to do this to you.
We work with partners such as the Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (GRASAC), the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), and the NHS to listen to and support you through this.
Please visit the following page to see exactly the steps you need to take to get the support you need: https://www.gloucestershire.police.uk/what-do-i-do-if/i-have-been-a-victim-of-crime/i-have-been-sexually-assaulted-or-know-someone-who-has-been/
Please don’t go through this in silence. Always tell someone.