Online dating has gained enormous popularity over the years and is now a multibillion dollar industry with millions of Australians accessing a wide variety of websites with the hope of finding true love however, there is another side of online dating people should be aware of.
The ACCC Online Dating Industry Report claims that the revenue for online dating services in Australia will reach $113.3 million in 2014–15. However, no official data is available on the number of Australians using these services but major of industry participants claim membership numbers in Australia are in excess of 4.6 million.
Online dating has matched many people in love and lust, and many singles find benefits in using them. However, the importance of playing safe in the online dating game needs to be explored. This has recently been brought to our attention, with the murders, rapes and violence against women in Australia.
In 2012 a widowed Australian grandmother travelled to South Africa to marry the young man she had fallen in love with online and was found dead in February 2013. Before her death, the pair maintained a long distance relationship spanning three years which saw the widow part with $200,000.00. Dating and romance scams account for over 30 per cent of scams reported to the ACCC. In 2014 it was reported that people had lost more than $27 million because of online dating scams.
Last month a Hobart court heard Victorian man Jason Ralph Jay aged 33 years, attacked and threatened to kill a Hobart woman in her home after the pair met on Facebook. During the court hearing it also became evident that Mr Jay was a serial abuser of women.
Single mum Sharon Siermans went on a date with a man from an online dating site, not realising he was a career criminal with more than 100 convictions to his name. Ms Siermans was later murder by this man. His most recent conviction prior to her murder was the brutal knife-point rape of a 52-year-old woman.
How is it that dating, the most important aspect of partner selection, is now being controlled and orchestrated by an industry that is not regulated? An industry that provides people, who in some cases are predators, with access to vulnerable, well- intentioned adults?
The reality is that when you go fishing in shark infested waters the chances of you getting hurt or in some cases killed are highly likely. Sadly the dangers of online dating are not widely publicised and many ordinary people with genuine romantic intentions approach the online dating websites and applications believing that the person on the other end shares the same genuine, love based values as they do.
Unfortunately, Western society has now normalised searching for love online with no consideration given to the possibility of providing innocent people with access to predators.
This is in direct contrast to many organisations where police clearance is required in order for people to work with children or vulnerable adults.
It is difficult to ascertain what responsibility or emphasis is placed on online dating providers to regulate or monitor their members, however, the importance of regulating online dating providers is gaining momentum in the United States and the United Kingdom (UK).
In the UK an Online Dating Association (ODA) was established in 2013 by a number of online dating providers who saw the need to take responsibility for the industry to maintain standards for their members.
The ODA claims to have an important and traditional role as a trade body – ensuring the sector is properly represented with a code of conduct for industry members. It also provides consumers with information about safe dating practices as well as complaint guidelines if they have concerns about an ODA industry member.
Although this is possibly a move in the right direction for online dating providers to establish a code of conduct as well as manage and handle complaints does it provide the certainty that member’s background checks will occur and online scammers will be readily identified? I feel that federal legislation will be required if we are to establish regulated compliance in the online dating industry.
It is critical that we become discerning when relating to others in this virtual space. The most important thing to remember is that you DO NOT know who is behind the computer, how many other women they are pursuing or if they have abused a partner and in particular, what their intentions are towards you. The reality is if you agree to online dating you are dabbling in the unknown.
The truth is out there in present society. There are people who have little, to no conscience or empathy. Manipulators and liars exist all around us concerned only with their own self-gratification. Online dating sites are the perfect playground for dangerous men as they have access to numerous vulnerable women who are looking for love and long-term commitment.
Our safety and security MUST always be our number one priority and we need to remember that underneath the surface we are not all the same, nor do we all share the same values, intentions or conscience.
The following 13 steps are guidelines people should be aware of when going on a blind date:
- Just because a person finds you physically or sexually attractive, does not mean they will care for you and not hurt you.
- Remember you do not know everything about the character and background of the person you are going to meet. It takes time to get to know a person and whether or not their values are aligned to yours.
- Not all people see the world through your moral compass. Many people use dating sites to target vulnerable women who are looking for sincere long-term love.
- Dangerous and harmful people do exist in our society and you must approach each new dating prospect with caution and learn about the “Dangerous Liaisons – Red Flags of Dating and Relating” prior to going online. http://www.modernlovesolutions.com/#!dangerous-liaisons/c21ed
- Protect your identity online until you are certain the person is genuine.
- Always, always, tell someone where you are and have them check in on you every hour.
- If possible have a friend also go to the meeting place with you and watch from afar.
- Watch your drink being made and don’t leave your drink unattended, remember to keep your hand over the glass when you are in conversation.
- Consider how long you are going to wait until you let someone know where you live. Please discuss this with your family, friends or dating coach.
- If you have any signs of doubt or discomfort about the person you should tell people you trust.
- Do not agree to meet at someone’s house or invite them to yours until you have established they are genuine.
- Minimise the first meeting to an hour and do not disclose a lot about yourself; in particular where you live.
- Go slow. Remember you don’t know who this person is.
* Marina Bakker is relationship expert working to reduce the rate of domestic violence through education. She holds a range of qualifications including a Masters in Social Science Counselling and a Bachelor in Education. This article is published here with Ms Bakkers permission.