With Valentine’s Day in February many people will be enjoying the prospect of meeting potential partners through online dating agencies. Millions of people safely use dating websites to get to know potential partners. We are however all aware of cases where people have found themselves in unsafe situations, which, in the very worst cases have resulted in serious abuse such as rape and even death. While these cases are few and far between, Suzy Lamplugh Trust seeks to promote personal safety at all times and has long advocated for safe internet use and following safety guidelines whilst meeting people on dates.

Independent online research this month by YouGov carried out on behalf of Suzy Lamplugh Trust and funded by dating service, Match, shows that nearly three quarters of online daters share personal information about themselves earlier than they would do in other situations.

This research also found that a third of online daters have experienced safety concerns when dating online and yet over half are never reported, amounting to potentially over a million concerns that dating agencies don’t know about. In addition, our research shows that the majority of those who have had concerns for their safety simply block perpetrator profiles, with 15% of daters feeling their report would not be acted upon by the service provider, 12% saying there wasn’t an easy way to report the concern on the dating website, and 7% feeling too embarrassed to report it.

We would urge all dating agencies to encourage and support their members to report all incidents and concerns and ensure that the mechanism for reporting is clear and easy to follow.  This not only helps the individual involved, but may also safeguard other users, as online dating agencies can spot potential problems and act immediately to protect their members. We would also call on all online dating agencies to develop in-house expertise to deal with complaints around personal safety with specific advice from external specialists that are trained in dealing with cases of violence and abuse.

In addition, online dating agencies should work together in the industry to share information amongst each other about users who demonstrate abusive behaviour such as stalking, harassment or other forms of abuse and establish criteria for determining this. Customer reporting should always be made as easy as possible via email and/or phone.

We also provide lots of general safety tips for anyone meeting an unknown person on a date; see here for the personal safety and dating tips on our website. Simple steps like telling someone where you’re going and who you’re meeting and checking in with them before, during and after the date are important steps to ensuring you stay safe.