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Warning, this article contains references to sexual assault that some readers might find disturbing…
Recently Australian investigative journalism program Four Corners and Triple J Hack launched an exposé into the dark side of Tinder.
In this disturbing report several women came forward to tell their stories of how some opportunistic sexual predators have been taking advantage of dating apps like Tinder to access innocent women – and assault them.
In many of these stories there was an element of assumption where the women trusted these men based on attributes in their profile like ‘he’s a firefighter, he must be a good guy.’
Or ‘he lives with his grandmother and takes care of her, what a sweetheart.’
Making assumptions like this is totally normal – we all do this to some extent. Our minds learn to filter through the millions of bits of information coming at us at any moment by taking these mental shortcuts. It’s how we’ve learned to function in such an overwhelming world.
Yet by making assumptions like in the examples above, we can sometimes be lured into a false sense of security where we trust a stranger more than we should.
Later, these assumptions can lead us to overlook warning signs that might appear down the track.
When you’re faced with a hundred online dating profiles and encouraged to swipe left or right based on very superficial information such as looks, a short description and one’s occupation, of course we’re going to make some mistakes.
Especially when people are curating their profile to make themselves look as good as possible.
Now, in writing this I don’t mean to scare you off online dating altogether. For every account of abuse there are countless people who have used these apps safely, and many have legitimately found love. Like with all tools, the outcome lies in the care we bring to using it.
In many accounts, the most frustrating thing for those who suffered abused was that they had no ability to hold their abusers accountable. This was because once the perpetrator unmatched on the app, all their text history and access to the perpetrator’s profile details was revoked. This made it difficult to report their assault to the police as they had nothing to point to as evidence of who had assaulted them.
While this feature was originally designed to protect users from unwanted attention, it was instead being used by perpetrators to effectively disappear off the face of the earth.
This is another reason why I encourage people to move interactions off the app as soon as possible – even if you just transition to texting, or better yet a phone call.
I know some women are worried about sharing their number with a stranger but keep in mind that you can always block someone who you don’t want to interact with anymore. By moving the conversation off the app and into your text inbox you retain ownership of your written interactions, along with the insurance of having the persons’ phone number.
While most people you date online won’t turn out to be such horrible humans, if things do go wrong you have control over any evidence that could help your case.
Furthermore, perpetrators will be put off if they know that you have their phone number and/or email address which police might be able to use to further identify them after an assault.
The measures I have discussed here should be practices you adhere to like putting on a seatbelt. While driving can be risky, we don’t stop driving cars. By taking these simple precautions you can make online dating a much safer way to meet and connect with new people.
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Co-author of 'How to Make the Biggest Decision of Your Life' and online dating, attraction & relationship coach committed to helping you attract a healthy, sustainable and passionate relationship.