PUNE The case of sexual harassment and alleged rape, filed by a 26-year old woman against a romantic acquaintance whom she met on the dating app Tinder, is making headlines.
The incident certainly raises questions about social media and recommended digital conduct of users.
Bhagyashree Navtake, DCP cyber-crime and EOW, said, “Social media is a part of our lives today. Whether it is online or offline, being mindful is of paramount importance. Before deciding to meet someone you’ve only met online, it very important to run a thorough background check on the other person. Also, it is advisable to not meet someone in a private or secluded place for the first time.”
While violence may not be a common consequence of disagreeable online encounters, instances of cyber bullying, blackmailing, stalking, extortion, and harassment are on the rise.
DCP (crime) Bachchan Singh shares some cases that were reported in the recent past.
“I remember multiple cases that were reported, where the couple, complete strangers, met on dating apps or on social media, and then got into a romantic relationship. Physical intimacy followed, and then the man started blackmailing the woman for further sexual favours. In some cases, there was extortion. There have also been some cases of gay encounters that turned sour after a couple of meets, and resulted in harassment.”
According to Singh, social media and dating apps are vulnerable spots and the ideal hunting grounds for sexual predators.
He warns that it is absolutely necessary to exercise tremendous caution while dealing with complete strangers online.
“Giving out too much personal information in the initial conversations with strangers, sharing personal photographs, and revealing monetary details can have shattering consequences. It is best to take it slow, and to do the due diligence,” he adds.
Singh recalls the most recent case of a 28-year old man, who was arrested by the Pune Police’s Crime Branch for harassing and duping women by getting in touch with them on online dating sites.
“The man would approach women, strike a relationship, and then get them to share pictures on chats. He would then use these pictures to harass and blackmail them,” said Singh.
He confessed of having duped 10-12 women.
Criminal lawyer Vijayalaxmi Khopade Khopade has dealt with 10 digital crime cases in the last six months, and she feels that the flip side of the cases involving sexual harassment and cyber stalking is victim shaming. “The problem is that social media is a great bait for sexual predators. The victims usually are women. Due to mental conditioning and the fear of getting shamed, the victims usually get exploited, and are left feeling hapless. The key is to avoid these situations, and be mindful of the netiquette that is required while using social media and dating apps.”
Psychologist Swarali Marathe said, “Not everyone is real and transparent on digital dating forums. Also, people with personality disorders, where they possess violent streaks, may also be on these apps. So, one needs to be very careful while using these services and sites.”