Most people who have used dating apps have also experienced some level of sexual violence via the increasingly popular medium, a new survey has revealed.
The study by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) released on Monday found three in every four respondents had been subjected to sexual violence through dating apps in the past five years.
The most common form of behaviour reported was sexual harassment, with abusive and threatening language and unsolicited sexual images also commonly experienced by those seeking love online.
In a troubling sign, the study also found sexual violence via dating apps was experienced far more frequently by LGBTIQ+ men and women compared to heterosexual participants.
Problems didn’t end when users of dating apps met face-to-face, with one in three survey respondents saying they experienced in-person sexual violence such as sexual assault or coercion, reproductive and sexual health related abuse and in-person image-based sexual abuse.
AIC deputy director Rick Brown said steps needed to be taken by dating app developers to improve user experience and safety.
“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,” he said.
Despite the exponential explosion in popularity of dating apps over the past 10 years, few studies have been done exploring 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.
Last year, dating app Bumble launched an initiative to provide free online trauma support to users who had experienced sexual assault or relationship abuse.
Earlier, the company also introduced an AI driven feature, which automatically identifies and blurs lewd images, leaving it at the recipient’s discretion if they want to view them.
A spokesperson from Bumble said they were saddened by the latest findings and that the company was taking steps to combat the specific types of abuse mentioned in the report.
“We hold everyone on Bumble accountable for their actions,” the spokesperson said.
“Any instance of violence, harassment or abuse is unacceptable to us and we do not hesitate to permanently remove perpetrators from our platform.
“We take our block and report tool very seriously, and have made it easy for our members to report any behaviour that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe to us so that we can take action.”