A scathing report on dating apps and websites has found alarming levels of sexual violence and repeat victimization among their users.
Three in four Australian dating app users have been exposed to some form of dating app facilitated sexual violence (DAFSV) in the last five years, it has been found.
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The findings were part of the first-ever national study into the prevalence and type of DAFV in Australia, published by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) on Tuesday.
It found that one in three respondents had been subjected to personal sexual violence committed by someone they met on a dating app or website, such as
A wide range of behaviors were also experienced as common online, from receiving unsolicited nude pictures and requests for sexually explicit images to online stalking and using abusive or threatening language.
The data revealed that LGB+ groups were disproportionately affected by DAFSV both online and in person.
The survey questions did not allow any transgender person, who might have been in the group of 9987 respondents, to correctly identify themselves – a limitation the study acknowledges.
“LGB+ women reported the highest prevalence of online DAFSV (86.6 percent), then non-binary respondents (84.5 percent) and LGB+ men (79.2 percent), closely followed by straight women (79.1 percent) and finally heterosexual men (61.5 percent),” the report says.
“Approximately half of male (45.5 percent) and female LGB+ respondents (49.5 percent) and 42.3 percent of non-binary respondents have personally experienced DAFSV. One in three straight women (35.4 percent) and one in four straight men (26.6 percent) reported having DAFSV personally.”
Warning for first time users
The statistics confirm anecdotes already widely understood by dating app users, but AIC research manager Sarah Napier told 7NEWS.com.au the results offered a realistic insight into potential dangers for first-time users.
“Since there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that this is already happening, there are likely many people who are already aware of this, especially those who have experienced it,” Napier said.
“For first-time users who have not used a dating app before, this study is probably very important because it shows that there are risks in using these sites and there are a few things you need to do to be careful.
“But the dating apps themselves should educate new users about these safeguards.”
The most commonly reported behavior was sexual harassment, with 69 percent of users surveyed saying they had been repeatedly contacted by someone they weren’t interested in.
Almost half of those surveyed have been sent sexual images without asking, or have been subjected to threats or insults, and just over a quarter have been stalked online.
How they get away with it
Some of the security features, such as blocking or deleting an account, can also be used by the perpetrators themselves against victims.
They can be used to “remove evidence of their conversations with victim survivors,” the report said.
Napier told 7NEWS.com.au: “We found that around half of respondents who had been subjected to sexual violence online or in person said their abuser blocked or failed to attribute them, or deleted their own account afterwards.”
“This shows that there are still features in some apps and some websites that really benefit the offender and allow them to go unnoticed and that’s a real problem,” she said.
The study didn’t look at which apps and websites offer those features, but Napier said some platforms dropped certain features after receiving anecdotal reports of sexual violence.
what must happen
Findings allowed AIC to develop some recommendations on security features for app and website developers to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence.
“These dating apps really do have a responsibility to protect their users, and we’ve seen from the results of this study that unfortunately in many cases that’s not happening,” Napier said.
“These companies should invent safety-by-design principles in their development.”
According to Napier, this could include reporting mechanisms within apps and websites that are easy to use and always provide a response, allowing an incident to be remedied “as soon as it happens.”
Identity verification, which requires government-issued ID, would also “help prevent offenders from setting up new accounts after a ban.”
“They could also use AI to censor explicit images because we found that one of the most common forms of sexual violence is online sexual harassment.”
“Most importantly, dating apps and sites really should continue to monitor the impact of effectiveness just to make sure the measures they are taking to protect users are actually working.”
She says online dating companies have a responsibility to both educate users and update their products.
“The responsibility really lies with these platforms because before these platforms and websites were set up, this didn’t happen.
Instead of letting platforms evolve without thinking about the impact on harm to users, we need to start embedding these security features as they are being developed,” said Napier.
https://7news.com.au/technology/how-three-out-of-four-dating-app-users-are-falling-victim-to-sexual-violence-c-8439030 How three out of four dating app users experience sexual violence