• Posted on: 27 June 2019
  • By: lwiseblau

Online Dating Puts College Students at Additional Risk

Faculty may be key to improving student safety

Recent technology has simplified the way we do many things, from banking and shopping to transportation and job hunting. Yet findings from a review from the Center for Clinical Investigation and Emergency Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests that one popular technology shift—online dating—brings increased risk of sexual assault for college students, and that faculty may be best poised to provide education on preventative measures. The findings were recently published in the latest issue of the National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities Building Healthy Academics Journal.

Sexual assault is a serious public health issue. US studies show that nearly 44 percent of women and some 23 percent of men have experienced other forms of sexual violence including unwanted sexual contact and sexual coercion in their lifetimes. More recently, there has a rise in sexual violence via technology, called technology-facilitated sexual violence (TFSV). TFSV includes in-person and virtual sexual acts including, stalking, sexual harassment, dating abuse, pornography, sexual exploitation and sexual assault.

One factor that places college students at particular risk for TFSV is the amount of personal information that they share on dating sites.

According to the review, author Meredith Jean Scannell, PhD, RN, CNM, MPH, SANE-A, who also works as a sexual assault nurse examiner out of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, reports that many sexual predators use online dating to connect with potential victims, whose trusting nature may make them easy marks. “For some, meeting someone new is an exciting time, especially if you are looking for a relationship,” said Scannell. “However, online dating doesn’t come without risk. Knowing possible risk factors and areas of vulnerability will allow young adults to make informed choices that improve their safety.” Faculty can be pivotal in educating students on the dangers of online dating and sexual assault, she says.

The federal civil law, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, requires higher educational institutions to address sexual violence, Scannell notes, but she asserts that these training efforts need to be targeted to faculty and include information on using use a trauma-informed approach when responding to students after an assault. Further, faculty members are in a position to recognize signs students may be exhibiting after a sexual assault, offer advice, and provide linkage to necessary services.

“As employees in higher educational institutions, we are obligated to address these concerns. Addressing these concerns requires an understanding of how prevalent the problem is, educating students on prevention methods that are consistent with the technology they are using, and implementing resources that are sensitive to the unique circumstances that college students face,” said Scannell.

Safety Tips to Consider with Online Dating
  • Be wary of dates that occur in isolated areas, such as an individual home.
  • Avoid dates who do not use pictures in their profiles, or refuse to send pictures or details of themselves over the app and will only do so outside of the app.
  • Avoid or limit personal details on dating sites, as the individual is then aware of your address, telephone number and other personal information.
  • Do not be pressured into meeting an individual especially in a location which can isolate you.
  • Avoid being pressured into changing the location of the date, especially if the date started in a public place and the individual is insisting you change to a secluded location.
  • Meet a person from a dating app in a public place, where it is easy to leave such as a café or shopping center.
  • Inform someone else, such a friend or relative, that you are meeting someone for the first time and share that person’s profile so they are aware of who you are meeting.
  • If the meeting is going poorly or making you feel uncomfortable, make a quick excuse to leave. Do not linger and allow for an opportunity for the date to continue.
  • If an individual doesn't want to meet in person after a period of time of correspondence, stop the online relationship.
  • When sharing personal information, limit the amount of information so that it cannot be searched on the internet; only give a first name or nick name when meeting a date for the first time.
  • Avoid linking social meeting accounts where your personal information and close contact information can be shared or easily accessed.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or limit alcohol intake on your date.
  • Avoid going to a place of residence on the first few dates.
  • Turn off the geolocation service on your profile so that you cannot be tracked.