ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — A report by the investigative reporting outlet ProPublica found the dating sites like Tinder, PlentyofFish, and others allow known sex offenders to set up profiles.
That’s partly because it’s so easy to setup a profile with limited information.
“It’s really more than 80 percent…sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows,” said Laura Guilliams with SARA Roanoke, “whether it’s a friend, a friend of a friend, a dating partner, a family member.”
She says she’s not surprised about the presence of predators on dating sites.
“People who commit sexual violence are people who are willing and ready to take the time to get to know somebody to break down the walls, break down the barriers to commit an assault.”
For most free dating sites, the companies behind them don’t have enough data to screen for registered sex offenders.
Most profiles only include the person’s first name or a unique username, but there are ways you can learn more about a potential date yourself.
A reverse image search can help you identify a person. Using an image of the person, you can upload the photo into Google, which may help you find the person’s full name.
If the person lists their employer, you can search that company on LinkedIn and find them with their first name.
From there you can search the person’s criminal history, but many people who have committed sexual assault have not been convicted.
That’s where your gut comes in.
“You’re allowed to be rude,” said Guilliams, urging people to trust their instincts and leave a situation if they are uncomfortable or call a friend for help, if possible. “You’re allowed to do what you need to do to follow what feels right for you.”
She says it’s brave to put yourself out there and date. She said even if the worst happens, it’s not because of the victim’s actions.
“Nothing that a victim has done has made sexual assault happen.”
If you or a loved one experienced sexual assault, reach out for help at the numbers below, or find more resources here:
- TAP Domestic Violence Services: 540-345-6781 or (24-hr hotline) 540-580-0775
- The Turning Point Domestic Violence Emergency Shelter: 540-345-0388
- Sabrina’s Place: 540-777-3799