Dating apps and websites have soared in popularity in recent years and can be a great platform for meeting potential partners – but, whatever happens, it is important to remember that anyone you meet online should be treated with respect.
We have seen a rise in reports of sexual assault involving people who have met through various dating sites, including both male and female victims, of all sexual orientations. In response to this, the constabulary is reminding people that sex without consent with rape.
Inspector Nicola Dean, from the Constabulary’s Crime Reduction and Community Safety unit, said: “We would never discourage anyone from using these apps and sites as they can be a great way to meet new people. However, it is important to remember that a swipe right doesn’t guarantee your night.
“Sex without consent is rape, whatever the circumstances. No matter what the conversations have been prior to meeting, anyone, male or female, of any sexual orientation, has the right to say no to sexual contact at any time and this should be respected.
“It is also important to remember that sex with someone who is incapacitated as a result of drink or drugs is rape. Offenders could find themselves facing a prison sentence and being placed on the sex offenders’ register. So stop and think, is it worth the consequences?”
While the constabulary very much wants to focus its attention on educating and deterring potential offenders, it is also important to remind people of some steps they can take to empower them around their own safety.
Inspector Dean continued: “Everyone should be free to date online without fearing for their safety, but, unfortunately, we know that these platforms can be used by those who have unscrupulous intentions. It is, therefore, still important to remain vigilant and take some simple precautions.
“Meeting and chatting with someone online, sharing intimate feelings and hopes can make you believe you know someone well. All of this can happen in a very compressed period of time, which can foster a false sense of security before you meet in person. But be aware that some people may not always be who they say they are.”
Never give out personal information, such as your address or place of work, on your online profile.
Always meet in a public place for the first time and arrange your own transport to and from the date.
Make sure you tell a friend, colleague or family member where you are going and update them regularly to let them know you’re ok.
Look for venues which promote the Ask For Angela scheme – this enables people who feel uncomfortable or unsafe during a date to discreetly seek help from bar staff.
Do not leave drinks or personal belongings unattended during a date.
Consider installing a personal safety app, such as Hollie Guard.
Always remember that sex without consent is rape.
Stop communicating with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable and contact the dating provider to help protect others.
Detective Inspector Mike Hanson, from the Constabulary’s Sexual Offences Investigation Team, said: “Becoming a victim of sexual assault is never your fault. We take all reports seriously, no matter what the circumstances or how long ago the offence occurred.
“We have specialist officers on hand to provide support and advice to victims throughout an investigation and any subsequent court proceedings. We also have officers within the organisation who are specially trained to provide support to members of the LGBT+ community throughout an investigation.
“If you do not feel comfortable speaking with police straight away, you can contact Herts SARC (opens in a new window) (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) for practical and emotional support. The centre can arrange face-to-face support, sexual health referrals and provide forensic medical examinations for those who want them.
“The service is open to everyone – men, women and young people, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred."