Lana and David* clicked immediately. Their two-month relationship started via a popular dating app. His bio said he lived in San Francisco, so she initiated the conversation by asking him what brought him to her hometown of Vancouver. He wasted no time responding that he was there a lot for work.
Perfect, she thought, He isn’t someone just looking for a vacation hookup. His jet-setting lifestyle, and the fact that he was the CEO of his own company appealed to her—as did their shared love of film and food culture. Within days, they took their conversation off the dating app and onto text message and then phone calls—but it would be another two months before they would actually meet in person.
During those eight weeks, they remained in constant contact. He’d send her photos of fancy meals and funny memes and they’d talk on the phone for hours about their careers and families. Despite having never met in person, she felt she knew him and she was falling hard.
“He was flying all over the place and was very busy, so I didn’t question the fact that we were never able to meet up in Vancouver when he was here,” says Lana. Instead, she took him up on his offer to fly her to Las Vegas to spend a weekend with him. Looking back, she believes that meeting there was very intentional. “Inviting me to another city was a way to disarm me,” she says. “He even offered to talk to my mother beforehand, a gesture that helped solidify the trust I already had in him.”
She started to notice the red flags immediately after meeting him. “When I got into the hotel room, he was much more uptight and tense than he came across on the phone,” says Lana. “I asked him if we could turn the heat up in the suite and he said ‘No,’ really firmly. Then at dinner, he insisted on ordering for me and demanded I eat something I told him I didn’t like.”
His off-putting, controlling nature didn’t sit well with her, but she brushed it off—she had a vision of how the weekend would play out, and she was still hopeful that it would be realized. Instead, she faced a terrifying reality. In a city a thousand miles away from her friends and family, he sexually assaulted her.
“It was a nightmare,” she says. “It was a horror film come to life.”
Dating app horror stories are common for women. They run the gamut of being subjected to annoying, unsolicited messages to being trapped in dangerous situations like Lana was. The main gripes women have when it comes to mainstream dating apps is that they are ineffective, have a lack of quality men, and are potentially harmful. But instead of accepting these complaints as an inherent part of the app experience, the women Cosmopolitan.com spoke with believe there are measures that the dating services can make to improve the experience—and apps like Sweet Pea, a new app launching this January, are taking note.