Sexual predators use dating apps to prey on vulnerable victims: study

An “unbelievable” number of predators find their victims on dating apps, according to a new study.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah analyzed the records of nearly 2,000 sexual assault victims between 2017 and 2020 and found that 14 percent of assaults occurred after meeting on a dating app.

Dr. Julie Valentine of BYU reported the results of the study – it was Published in Journal of Personal Violence – The increase in the number of victims reporting sexual assault after meeting someone on a dating app was “unbelievable”.

Another significant trend is that the targeted victims often suffer from mental illness and the attacks are significantly more violent.

“Those with mental illnesses such as depression may be more susceptible to predators, who may, for example, flatter them and persuade them to meet in person,” Valentine explained. in a press release. “On a dating app, people can frame themselves even if they want to reach out to vulnerable victims.”

Previous research shows that people with mental illness are more likely to be sexually assaulted.
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College students are the age group most likely to be targeted, with experts involved in the study calling the current security measure on dating apps — a written statement — insufficient.

According to Valentine, dating apps have removed the screening process that happens when you meet someone in real life, making them a potential “breeding ground.”

“People met through mutual friends or at work or school, and there was some level of vetting before dating,” he said. “Dating apps have completely removed that process.”

BYU nursing professor Julie Valentine says there has been an increase in victims reporting rape after meeting someone on a dating app.
BYU professor Julie Valentine says the number of victims who report being raped after meeting someone on a dating app has increased.
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The study’s authors recommend that dating app companies improve their safety standards and work with dating apps and lawmakers in Utah to develop a bill called the Online Dating Safety Requirements. Valentine and his team at BYU hope other US states will follow suit if it passes.

Valentine recommended that dating apps also leverage artificial intelligence to identify potential criminals within the apps, as well as communicate with other dating apps to look up criminal records and root out serial offenders.

Despite the surprising findings from the study, Valentine said he doesn’t want people to stop using dating apps — he just wants more security measures in place.

“They’re the No. 1 way happy couples meet,” he said. “We want to keep it, but increase security.”


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