Navigating the Digital Dating World Safely: Protecting Yourself and your Rights

In today's digital age, where swipes and clicks often pave the path to love, online dating apps have become a prominent platform for those looking for love (or fun) to connect with potential partners. But for every ‘happily ever after’, there are an equal number of negative experiences occurring between app users - some involving criminal acts like sexual harassment, abuse and assault.

The Australian Institute of Criminology’s research revealed that three in four people using online dating apps experienced some form of sexual violence, including harassment, abusive language, image-based abuse, and stalking.

The Australian government recently issued an ultimatum to the operators of dating apps, urging them to take decisive action to address sexual assault on their platforms. The message is clear: safeguard your users or face regulatory consequences.

A Collaborative Approach to Safety

Significant momentum for change has already been generated within the sector, thanks to a pivotal Roundtable meeting bringing together dating platforms owners, law enforcement, social sector representatives, advocates, and the federal and state governments. This gathering marked a turning point in recognizing the need for collective action to combat sexual assault on dating apps.

In calling upon the online dating industry to establish a voluntary code of practice focused on enhancing user safety, the Australian government has underlined the possibility of governmental regulatory action, should the industry fail to address user safety adequately.

Match Group, the parent company of popular dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Hinge, expressed its commitment to strengthening user safety and has launched educational programs and enhanced safety tools within their apps. They emphasised the importance of addressing systemic issues that extend beyond the dating app industry, highlighting the need for a comprehensive approach to curbing abusive behaviour both online and offline.

Voluntary Code of Practice for User Safety

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland emphasized the importance of finding a balance between accountability of industry stakeholders and fostering innovation within the dating app sector. While the industry has already taken steps to improve standards, she believes a stronger commitment to safety is required.

The proposed code of practice will not be a one-time effort. The government aims to implement it by mid-2024 and subsequently review its effectiveness nine months later. This approach will enable a gradual and staged response to any regulatory interventions in the sector.

Prioritising Your Safety

Finding love online can be exhilarating, but it's equally important to be informed about safeguarding your rights, especially if you experience assault or domestic violence.

Amanda Rishworth, the Social Services Minister, stressed the moral responsibility of dating app providers to protect their users. She called for early intervention by identifying patterns of inappropriate behaviour and actions that may cross legal boundaries. Instead of turning a blind eye, app providers should take proactive measures to address these issues.

If you've encountered assault or domestic violence in the realm of digital dating, your safety and well-being are paramount. In such distressing situations, it's crucial to consider seeking legal counsel. An experienced lawyer can guide you through the necessary legal steps to protect yourself and pursue justice, including obtaining a protection order and safety planning to cease a violent online relationship.

Knowledge is power

Knowledge is power, and understanding your legal rights and options is essential. If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence or assault, reach out to a legal expert who can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

Experiencing assault or domestic violence is a traumatic and challenging ordeal. Parker Coles Curtis staff are all trained in trauma-informed practice and specialise in family law and domestic violence. Our team of professionals can assist you in obtaining restraining orders, navigating the legal system, and advocating on your behalf to ensure your rights are protected.

While the world of online dating offers exciting opportunities for love and connection, it's essential to be aware of your rights and options, especially if you encounter assault or domestic violence. NSW Police have recently released “Empower You” a free, innovative domestic violence safety app – which discreetly connects victims to information, support and legal resources. Read more about this new free app in our recent blog here.