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National Crime Agency reports increase in recorded rapes related to online dating

6 Feb 2016

The Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) of the National Crime Agency (NCA), which supports police investigations into serious sexual assaults committed by strangers, has today (Sunday 7th February 2016) reported a six-fold increase in reports of online dating related rapes over a 5-year period.  

The number of reports rose from 33 in 2009 to 184 in 2014, which is double the number of rapes reviewed by SCAS involving bogus taxis.  85% of the victims of these crimes are women. 

Katie Russell, spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England & Wales said: 

“Rape Crisis welcomes the NCA’s interest and research into this area.  Due to the pace at which new technologies and their use have increased in recent years, there is inevitably limited up-to-date information or data available regarding reported sexual violence linked to online dating.

This report tells us that dating websites and apps are now established among the range of means sexual offenders use to target and access women and girls in particular. 

Through our frontline experience of providing specialist support services, we know that online grooming, of adults as well as children, is a long-standing technique among sexual violence perpetrators.

 With one in three relationships now starting online, attention clearly needs to be focused on targeting the minority who abuse dating services to perpetrate rape and other forms of sexual violence.” 

Martin Hewitt from the National Police Chiefs' Council said:

“Regardless of the circumstances, sexual activity against your will is a crime. The Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) works together with every police force in the country ensuring that victims are supported when they take the difficult step in coming forward to report these serious offences.” 

Sean Sutton, Head of the NCA’s Serious Crimes Analysis Section, commented:

“More than nine million Britons have logged on to online dating sites, and the majority have found that they are a convenient and safe environment to find a relationship.

“This initial work clearly raises a lot of questions and we will be working with academia to build a more complete picture. However this will take time and we wanted to release our headline findings at the earliest opportunity.

“Our aim here is to make people aware of the potential danger, so they can be better prepared and make the choices that are right for them. A rape victim is never at fault and we do not want the circumstances in which these assaults take place to cause any victim to doubt that. Sexual assault is a crime, full stop, and we want victims to feel confident reporting it to the police.”