Victims of sexual assault via dating apps are being urged to contact police immediately, even if the perpetrator has tried to conceal their identity.
Victoria Police issued a fresh warning on Sunday amid concerns victims are only reporting criminal activity via the apps themselves.
Officers say many people report unwanted behaviour via functions within the apps but contacting police is the only way to initiate an investigation and have a formal report lodged.
Officer in charge of the Sexual Crimes Squad, Detective Inspector Juliann Goldrick, said police fear these matters often go under reported.
“That can be for a range of reasons, including fear or embarrassment, and sometimes feeling unsure if an offence has occurred or if they will be believed,” he said.
“In terms of dating apps, we might have people who are unsure about making a report because the person has blocked or removed their profile on the app, or maybe a lengthy period of time has passed and victims are worried it has been too long.”
But it is never the victim’s responsibility to determine whether or not there’s enough evidence, he said, arguing police have a number of methods to hunt down suspects despite limitations.
“It’s crucial that victims understand that reporting to the dating app is not reporting to police,” Inspector Goldrick said.
Dating apps have become a particular concern for police given strict lockdown measures in Melbourne, making it one of the only ways for people to connect with a potential partner.
He warned predatory sexual behaviour on dating apps could range from physical sexual assault to sending and receiving illicit images.
Latest year a report revealed one in five sexual assault cases – which occurred in Sydney’s most popular night spots – stemmed from online dating.
Tinder has also recently come under fire for a loophole which allows offenders to “unmatch” with a potential victim before deleting all interaction. Police are concerned this may be why many victims fail to report assaults.
“Something we commonly see with victims is a sense of obligation – a feeling that they owe the offender something because this person has spent time messaging them, or travelled to see them, or bought them a meal or drink,” Inspector Goldrick said.
“I really want to be absolutely clear that you do not owe anyone anything, ever.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.