Dating in the real world is hard—you know, you have to try to look half-decent and then there’s the conversation bit—trying to sound both interesting and intelligent with a dose of humor thrown in. Not easy. Particularly if the chemistry just ain’t there. Enter online dating. It’s just easier, right? Stick a profile out there—write it up when you’re at your wittiest, have some friends edit it, find some pics and photoshop them, and you’re good to go. Be the best date prospect you can be because it’s all, well, massaged—the way an ad campaign is.
But here’s the thing. If you can do it—in essence, perpetrate a bit of ‘online fraud’—guess who else can put their best self forward on online dating sites? Sex offenders. And you thought canceled or inactive subscribers was bad!
That’s hopefully about to change. Thanks to attorney Mark Webb and California state attorney general, Kamala Harris, three of the larger online dating sites have agreed to provide online safety tools for daters including: checking subscribers against the national sex offender registries; providing an abuse reporting system for site members; providing proactive education about safe online dating practices; and providing tips on how to safely meet someone offline–as, after all, that’s the goal of an online meetup.
According to a release from the attorney general’s office, “In 2011, 40 million Americans used an online dating service and spent more than $1 billion on online dating website memberships. Of couples married in the last three years, one in six met through an online dating service and one in five people have dated someone they met through an online dating site.”
Given those numbers, it’s no surprise that online dating sites are a natural lure for those seeking a mate. Apparently, that’s what the woman at the root of these changes thought when she became a rape victim while on a date that began as a Match.com meetup.
The victim, known only as Jane Doe from Los Angeles, was on the Match.com-arranged date when she was raped. She found out later that her date was a convicted serial sex offender. Amazingly, in her subsequent Match.com lawsuit (Jane Doe vs. Match.com, Los Angeles Superior Court Case #BC458927) she only sought for Match.com to screen out sex offenders and she waived her right to compensatory damages. She just wanted to spare others from what she’d been through.
Of note as well, her attorney, Mark Webb took on her case pro bono.
In addition to Match.com, the online dating sites who agreed to the above terms include eHarmony.com and Spark Networks (which operates online dating sites including JDate and ChristianMingle).