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  • Sexual violence rife on dating apps

    Author: AAP

Dating apps need to better protect their users, after a study revealed high rates of sexual violence, stalking, assault and unwanted sharing of explicit images.

The Australian Institute of Criminology survey of 9987 app users found three-quarters were victims of some form of online sexual violence in the past five years.

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One-third experienced in-person abuse from someone they met on an app, with 27 per cent of those reporting incidents of sexual assault or coercion, such as drink spiking.

Among those physically assaulted, nearly 20 per cent said they had been the victim of sexual health abuse such as "stealthing", when a condom is removed without consent.

The researchers said the figures showed a "significant proportion" of people on apps were exposed to online and physical sexual violence.

"This is highly concerning given the significant and potentially long-term impacts associated with these victimisation experiences," the study said.

"These impacts include poorer health and wellbeing, including overall life satisfaction, social isolation and lower self-esteem, as well as increased risk of re-victimisation."

Among heterosexual respondents, 79 per cent of women reported some form of online violence, compared with 61 per cent of men.

Rates of sexual violence through dating apps were higher among LGBTQI people, with 87 per cent of women reporting abuse and 79 per cent of men. The vast majority of the 71 non-binary respondents were also victims.

The abuse was not isolated - users said they experienced sexual violence online and in-person multiple times from different perpetrators.

Almost half the victims said an abuser unmatched or blocked them, or deleted their own profile, in an apparent attempt to avoid being caught.

The study said dating apps should prioritise safety via easier reporting processes, tougher ID verification to ban perpetrators, and censorship of explicit images.

The histories of conversations between users also need to be stored by the platforms to help victims who report abuse to the authorities, the authors wrote.

"Considering the long- and short-term implications for victim-survivors after experiencing these harmful behaviours, there is an obvious need to develop mechanisms for protecting users," the study said.

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