New research shows prolific use of dating apps to facilitate sexual violence

Today the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has released a report that reveals that three in every four survey respondents had been subjected to sexual violence facilitated via dating apps in the last five years. Sexual harassment was the most common form of behavior reported, as well as abusive and threatening language, and unsolicited sexual images.

The report explores the findings of a large national survey of dating app and website users to examine the prevalence and nature of sexual harassment, aggression and violence facilitated by these online platforms.

One in three survey respondents were subjected to in-person dating app facilitated sexual violence (DAFSV), perpetrated by someone they met in person after communicating on a dating app or website. This included sexual assault or coercion, reproductive and sexual-health related abuse and in-person image-based sexual abuse.

AIC Deputy Director Dr Rick Brown said that the research also shows that DAFSV was experienced much more frequently among LGBTIQ+ men and women compared to heterosexual participants.

“We discussed the findings with industry in a recent roundtable in Canberra.

“While it was encouraging to hear about what dating app companies are doing to embed safety into their products, the high levels of online and in-person DAFSV in this report demonstrate the need to embed Safety by Design principles in their development processes.

Use of mobile dating apps has increased exponentially in the last 10 years, and to date, there have been very few primary studies exploring the prevalence and nature of technology-facilitated sexual violence.

“This study aims to address these gaps in knowledge and provide valuable information that can assist in the development of policies and practices to prevent this kind of violence from occurring,” Dr Brown said.

In conjunction with this research report, another paper on the sexual exploitation of children on dating apps and websites will be released this Thursday.

Both reports will be available on the Australian Institute of Criminology website.

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