Rape, harassment and blackmail in Cumbria – the dark side of dating apps revealed
DATERS seeking romance in Cumbria have said they were raped, harassed, harassed and blackmailed after signing up to online dating services, the News & Star can reveal.
Since 2017, Cumbria Constabulary has investigated a catalog of crimes linked to popular dating sites such as Tinder, Grindr and Plenty of Fish.
In addition, more “romance scams” involving financial fraud have been reported to the national Action Fraud initiative.
The force urged those looking for love to do all they can to stay ‘safe and protected’ while meeting people online.
The vast majority of those who use dating sites in the hope of finding love do so without incident – but figures obtained by the N&S show that at least 35 breaches have been linked to major dating platforms in recent years .
They include three rapes, seven blackmail offences, one case of sexual activity with a child, eight harassment complaints and one stalking offence.
Read more: Online dating advice – from the police
Earlier this year, a Carlisle teenager was granted parole and a restraining order after he threatened to trample his girlfriend’s head and slit his mother’s throat.
William Cowell, then 18, admitted to sending threatening messages after meeting his girlfriend on Tinder.
And in 2018, serial rapist and “sex sadist” Lee Savage was jailed for life after targeting women he met on Plenty of Fish.
The Penrith man attacked women in North Cumbria, Tyneside and Dumfries and Galloway.
Lee Savage targeted victims online
Figures leaked to the N&S following a freedom of information request show that 30 offenses being investigated by Cumbria Police have been dropped due to evidentiary difficulties.
One ended with a charge and three were closed due to lack of public interest in pursuing the case.
When gender was disclosed, 20 of the 24 identified suspects were male, while 16 of the 30 victims were female. One victim was under 18.
Detective Chief Inspector Vicki Coombes is the Cumbria Constabulary’s senior rape and serious sexual offenses officer.
She said: “A lot of people now use online dating sites to meet people and build relationships.
“Most people who use these sites are sincere and honest in the information they provide and the reasons for joining.
“But there are exceptions, and people who use dating apps and sites need to know how to protect themselves and protect themselves when meeting people online.”
Of the crimes disclosed, 14 were related to Tinder, 10 to Grindr, seven to Plenty of Fish, two to match.com, and one to Bumble and Hinge, respectively.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of Victim Support, said dating app companies need to do more to protect users.
She said: “Crimes committed on dating apps can have a devastating impact on victims.
“In addition to adverse emotional or financial effects, many mistakenly feel shame or embarrassment.
“There need to be better systems in place to more rigorously vet users and detect potentially harmful behavior.”
A Grindr spokesperson said it takes the safety of its users seriously and publishes safety tips, while encouraging users to be careful when interacting with strangers and to report inappropriate or illegal behavior.
Bumble has a series of security measures associated with its platform, including photo verification, video calling features, and hate speech and violence monitoring.
For offenders, the use of dating sites is only one way to reach victims.
In many cases, it is likely that they would have offended regardless of how the relationship was formed – and it is often impossible for a victim to anticipate their behavior.
DCI Coombes recommends using social media to check out potential dates before meeting them and withholding key personal information.
She advised meeting in public on a first date and making sure others know the location and who you are meeting.