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Rise in first-date rape claims in UK linked to online dating. How to play it safe

Woman using laptop

Woman using laptop

The number of people being raped during their first face-to-face meeting following initial contact through an online dating website or app has increased tremendously, NCA analysts say.

According to the NCA’s Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS), which supports police investigations into serious sexual assaults committed by strangers, the number of reports rose from 33 in 2009 to 184 in 2014.

Most of the victims are women. NCA’s report shows that 85% of the victims are women and 15% are men. Of the men, 25% of victims were aged between 15 and 19.

“More than nine million Britons have logged on to online dating sites, and the majority have found that they are a convenient and safe environment to find a relationship,” Sean Sutton, Head of the NCA’s Serious Crimes Analysis Section, said.

He said they were keen to make people aware of the potential danger of rape “so they can be better prepared and make the choices that are right for them.”

“A rape victim is never at fault and we do not want the circumstances in which these assaults take place to cause any victim to doubt that. Sexual assault is a crime, full stop, and we want victims to feel confident reporting it to the police,” Mr Sutton said.

George Kidd, Chief Executive of the Online Dating Association (ODA) commented: “Dating services account for about a third of all new relationships and the friendships, romances, marriages and families that these bring about.

“Sexual assault or abuse is never acceptable. Even one incident of harm is one too many.”

The ODA said it was working with the NCA and the police to prevent online dating assaults.

Safety advice for online dating recommended by Get Safe Online

Dating Online? Play it safe when you meet face-to-face
1. Plan it. Say it. Do it.
It’s your date. Agree on what you both want from it before you meet up. Don’t feel pressured to meet before you’re ready or for any longer than you’re comfortable with – a short first date is fine.

2. Meet in public. Stay in public.
The safest plan is to meet somewhere public and stay somewhere public. Make your own way there and back and don’t feel pressured to go home with your date. If you feel ready to move to a private environment, make sure your expectations match your date’s.

3. Get to know the person, not the profile.
The way people interact online isn’t always the same face-to-face. Don’t be offended if your date is more guarded when meeting in person. or if things don’t progress as fast face-to-face.

4. Not going well? Make your excuses and leave.
Don’t feel bad about cutting a date short if you’re not keen. You don’t owe the other person anything, no matter how long you’ve been chatting or what’s been suggested.

5. If you’re raped or sexually assaulted on your date, help is available.
No matter what the circumstances, sexual activity against your will is a crime. Police and charities are here to help and support you.

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