BYU study highlights dangers of not checking who you’re dating on dating apps: KUER


New research suggests sexual predators are using dating apps as ‘hunting grounds’ for vulnerable victims. Brigham Young University researchers found that sex offenders who use dating apps are often more violent and appear to target people with mental illness.

“60% of victims self-report mental illness. Mental illness in general is a significant vulnerability for sexual assault,” she said Julie Valentineprofessor of nursing at BYU and lead author of the study.

The results are published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Valentine, with whom she is also a forensic nurse Wasatch Nurse Forensics, believes that people with mental illness are targeted because they seek validation on dating apps. “It may be that people with mental illness, depression or anxiety may be more influenced by perpetrators who use flattery or other means to isolate victims,” ​​he said. Additionally, the study states that 42% of dating app users are survivors of sexual assault, which increases the risk of mental health problems.

The idea is not to avoid dating apps. Instead, participants should take precautions into their own hands and not rely solely on what, if any, the companies behind the app have.

“The vetting process is very, very important,” Valentine said. Advise dating app users to go on several public dates before being alone with someone on a dating app. Valentine also said it can be a good idea to introduce a partner on a dating app to other people before you’re alone with them.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Ciara Hulet: What makes you think sex offenders are using dating apps as hunting grounds?

Julie Valentine: Everyone uses dating apps to find someone to hook up with. The fact that we found these violations to be much more violent is what makes us claim that violent predators are using these dating apps. A third of the victims are strangled. This indicates a high degree of lethality, indeed attempted murder in some cases. We also saw that victims had experienced more acts of penetration and that victims had more anogenital and non-anogenital injuries. Generally, much more violent assaults.

CH: You found in your study that victims fight back less, even though perpetrators are more violent. Why that?

JV: It may seem strange at first glance. Imagine they meet someone on a dating app that they don’t really know well, and they may be very delusional that this is a good person. And then they are assaulted. They are violated. Many patients state, “I thought I was going to kill myself” or “I was so scared. I just laid there.” So when our brains have this high degree of fear and perceived threat, they go into a primitive response. We all know fight, flight or freeze, but we actually find that in sexual assault freezing, which can also lead to something called tonic immobility, is experienced by many victims. And we believe this is even higher in these DAppSAs [dating app facilitated sexual assault] cases due to this high degree of fear.

CH: What do you expect dating app companies to do to address this?

JV: We’ve looked at a lot of dating apps and found that most of them don’t actually use the term “sexual assault.” They say yes [survivors] they want to report something that made them “uncomfortable” or a “physical assault”. So, first, we want you to openly voice your concerns about sexual assault. So we want dating app companies to realize that if the only way to address, or the primary way to address, security on their sites is to have a list of written security guidelines , which puts the full burden of preventing a potential sexual assault. victims And what this does is it leads to blaming the victim. Victims are supposed to follow these guidelines. And if they don’t? I’ve had patients who have been sexually assaulted by these dating apps say, “I thought he was a really nice guy.” They met in a public place and then they were together for a while on the date. And then he said, “Hey, do you want to go to my apartment?” And then suddenly things got really scary and they were raped when they were alone. So when they only have these guidelines to follow, we worry that victims will feel guilty if maybe they don’t follow all these guidelines, and something bad happens and then they won’t report it. We also want dating app companies to clearly state that if they experience sexual or other abuse, they are not to blame, and then have clear reporting mechanisms and easy-to-find resources.

CH: Is there anything dating app companies can do to prevent predators from getting on dating apps in the first place?

JV: That’s hard. There is one country that requires users to upload a government ID Some of the apps here in the US do something called “validation” where they upload a photo and then you have to pose or take another picture to validate that it’s someone in your photo We are concerned that there is a false sense of security because anyone can do this level of validation. We want dating apps to clearly state that they don’t do background checks. Or the really cool way would be for dating apps to run criminal background checks on users at no extra cost. we have some legislation in Utah that we hope to pass this year, the online dating safety amendments proposed by Rep. Angela Romero this will require dating apps in the state of utah to follow these additional security guidelines we’ve discussed.

CH: For now, what precautions should dating app users take, especially when predators can trick people into thinking they’re a good person?

JV: One of the things that we hope will come from this study is that people will realize that they need to be more aware when they meet someone in person: always go with a fully charged phone, meet in public and realize – they are responsible for verifying this person. You know, when I was dating, you met people you dated at school or work or through mutual friends. So there was that degree of verification that we miss in dating apps. Therefore, there is some personal responsibility for this verification. And then let other people know where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and what time the date will end so you have people who can help you with follow-up.

CH: What about staying off dating apps altogether?

JV: I don’t want the studio message [be] stay off dating apps Dating apps are great. It’s the number one way people find each other. What do we want the message of this study [to be] is to encourage dating app companies to increase their security measures and also help these users to be aware of the importance of really researching a person before being alone with them.

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