Why danger could be lurking on those online dating apps
Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30
Rightly or wrongly, walking home alone late at night has long since been deemed the ultimate 'don't' for women.
Now though, it's swiping right in the comfort of your own home that could come with the gravest warning for females here.
Sex attacks on women have risen by a third in the capital since 2014, according to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) this week.
And hook-up sites such as Tinder have been pinned as the new 'dark alleyway' for Ireland's most depraved sexual predators.
Speaking on 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday, outgoing CEO Ellen O'Malley Dunlop explained how the DRCC had accompanied 295 victims to the sexual assault treatment unit at the Rotunda Hospital last year - 74 more than the previous year.
Urging singletons not to use dating apps, she said: "Tinder, where people are going on that website specifically to have a sexual relationship with another [person] outside of any other type of relationship, is very concerning.
"I think it's really important for people to know how dangerous it can be because you have perpetrators who are out there seeking vulnerable people and that site … can be an extremely dangerous site for people to access another person just to have sex."
Since launching in 2012, there's no denying that Tinder has gone from being a tool to help single women find 'Mr Right', to finding 'Mr Right for the Night'.
But could it actually be dangerous too?
Launching measures to help both women and men feel safer on blind dates, one new Irish dating website certainly thinks so.
Registering a date and seeking to become a verified user are just two of the "checks and balances" now being used by www.arealkeeper.ie.
The website bids to marry the old tradition of matchmaking with the new phenomenon of online dating.
"We wanted to put parameters in place that would make clients feel a bit safer about meeting people online," said co-founder Rena Maycock, who also runs Dublin-based agency Intro Matchmaking.
"Having said that, there's no such thing as 100pc security. No matter where you meet someone, it's important to exercise caution."
Mercifully, I'm not among the one in five Irish women who've been the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
But I have been groped in a nightclub, 'jokingly' pinned against a wall by a man in broad daylight, and mistaken for a prostitute by a taxi driver while walking home from work.
All of which occurred offline.
My point is this: online dating apps aren't responsible for creating rapists any more than they're responsible for creating cheats.
As many - including Tinder - move to monetise, however, they're very much responsible for helping to keep their users safe, both online and off.
Worldwide, Tinder claims to make a staggering 15 million matches a day.
To date, however, it's done little to assist the 6pc of Irish people who've reportedly downloaded the app to weed out the weirdos - or worse - as they exhaustively swipe left.
Four years after promising "real life, but better", as such, the company must suck up bad press like last year's viral 'Vanity Fair' article, 'Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse'.
In 2014, an Irish man was arrested after allegedly raping a woman he met on Tinder - the first such case in the country.
Back at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Ms O'Malley Dunlop - who's stepping down to run as an Independent candidate for the Seanad - revealed her biggest fear was that others wouldn't come forward.
"You can imagine if somebody is ringing our helpline for support, they're not going to say to us that they've been raped by somebody that they met on Tinder because they would feel very ashamed about that … no matter what a situation is a person will not bring that type of crime upon themselves."
Sadly, in these victim-blaming times we live in, demonising Tinder as a hotbed of sexual predators is only going to cast aspersions on the blameless women who continue to use it too.
For the 'Netflix and Chill' generation, the search for love - or indeed just lust - is unlikely to go offline anytime soon.
In the meantime, whether shopping online for a new partner or a new purse, perhaps the best advice is still 'caveat emptor'.