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Online dating

Online dating apps and websites are a very popular way for people to meet each other. Studies suggest that more than 10 million people use online dating services in the UK, making it the single largest source of new relationships.

Dating websites and apps

Sexual predators use online dating sites and apps as a way to target new victims.

With the popularity of online dating, we have seen an increase in sexual assaults as a result of people meeting up after speaking on dating websites or apps. These assaults are usually at the victims' homes, as people are lulled into a false sense of security by sexual predators.

Some dating websites and apps allow users to create anonymous accounts, or allow users to delete their account without holding backup copies of that account, its interactions or conversations. Because of this, it is not always easy to identify offenders, even if victims' have evidence of the conversations they have had with the offender. 

These types of unmonitored sites or apps create a significant issue for us in terms of identifying offenders and being able to gather evidence. 

Online dating and personal safety

If you decide to meet up with someone you've spoken to online, be sure to tell a friend or family member;

  • the name of the person you're meeting
  • where and at what time you are meeting
  • what time you will arrive home.

We recommend agreeing to call your friend or family member during and after your meeting to reassure them that you are ok, or to alert them that you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. 

Visit our other advice pages for more advice on personal safety and sexual consent.

Worried about someone dating online? Step up

We encourage people to step in and intervene if they see a situation where they believe someone's behaviour is inappropriate and could lead to a sexual assault. 

Our 'step up' initiative is similar to other bystander campaigns seen around the country and the world. These campaigns have helped reduce sexual assaults linked to night-time economy.

Ask for Angela

Many Cambridge pub and bar venues now support the Ask for Angela campaign.

The campaign aims to keep people safe while dating in Cambridgeshire by promoting the simple code-word: ‘Angela’.

If you are on a date in a bar and are worried for your safety, you can discreetly ask for help by going to the bar and asking: ‘is Angela here?’.

This message then alerts bar staff to the situation, so they can phone for a taxi or offer a safe space for you to contact a family member or friend.

Ask for Angela was developed by Lincolnshire County Council and is being rolled out across the UK. It is supported by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership with local support from Community Safety Partnerships.

Ask for Angela venue registration 

If you would like your business or venue to be listed as an official ‘Ask for Angela’ venue in Cambridgeshire, please email the Cambridge Business Against Crime Manager on adam@cambac.co.uk.

Online Dating Association (ODA)

The Online Dating Association provides a list of safer websites and apps to use for online dating.

Dating websites and apps that are members the ODA are required to abide by their online dating service guidance principles. They exist to provide online daters with a list of safer sites to use when dating online. 

When choosing a safe dating site or app, you can also reduce your risk of exposure to predators by following this advice;

  • don't include too much personal information on your profile, wait until you are comfortable with someone before you share any sensitive information
  • don’t agree to meet somebody for the first time in a private place - always choose a public setting, as this creates a safer environment for a first date
  • be aware of the dangers. Sometimes people use dating websites and apps with the sole purpose of taking advantage of people. Never share your banking information with somebody you have not met before and don't be tempted to give money to a stranger, regardless of how convincing their story is.

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