The ugly truth about dating apps that only women see
Rapists and domestic violence thugs go online to find victims. Journalist SHERELE MOODY says dating app companies have a responsibility to keep women safe
IMAGINE finding a nice person on Tinder.
You go out on a few dates. Have a great time. And at some point, you decide he or she might be the one so you welcome then into your home and your life.
And then this person rapes and/or bashes you, subjects you to emotional abuse, controls your every move and refuses to let you see your loved ones or have your own money.
You build up the bravery to report them to police - and that is when the bombshell drops.
The lover who stole your heart has a history of sexual or domestic violence.
It's a frightening scenario and, sadly, it is one that is repeated daily across the country.
Dating apps and social media forums are perfect hunting grounds for abusers prowling for their prey.
Take convicted rapist Glenn Antony Hartland.
This sick sadist used Tinder, Snapchat and other forums to find his victims.
In October last year - after a long and exhaustive police investigation - Hartland pleaded guilty to raping three women and sexually assaulting another.
At that time, the judge allowed him to remain on bail as he awaited his sentencing date.
Over the next five months - until March 2019 - he continued using dating and social media apps.
I wrote about Hartland when he was bailed after the guilty plea and in the weeks that followed, multiple women contacted me to reveal he was back on Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
He hid behind different names but the photos showed beyond a doubt that it was him.
In fact, he was so brazen he actually contacted me via Facebook to remonstrate me for discussing his case.
Hartland was eventually charged for breaching his bail conditions over his presence online but was again bailed to continue his activities unabated.
Dubbed the Tinder Rapist by the media, Hartland is now serving a minimum of 11 years in prison.
Earlier this year, a 32-year-old male was charged with rape following alleged assaults against a woman he met on dating app Badoo. The man, who has not been convicted and is yet to face trial, is alleged to have held the woman hostage in Melbourne for four days.
In America, suspected serial killer Danueal Drayton is said to have found his female victims through dating and ride-hailing apps.
"We would talk all night, all day, regular conversation," one of Drayton's former girlfriends told a media outlet after he was charged.
"No red flags, nothing. Just you know - the perfect guy."
Sexual sadist Stephen Port murdered four men in the UK and raped countless others after finding all of his victims on the gay male dating app Grindr.
On Tuesday evening it emerged convicted Queensland sex offender Trent Thorburn - who had sex with his 12-year-old foster sister Tiahleigh Palmer - has a new Tinder profile.
The Tinder user who appears to be Thorburn has posted a photo of himself posing in front of a mirror with phone in hand.
His boyish good looks and casual demeanour give no indication of his dark past or the fact that his offence on Tiah ultimately ended in the youngster's violent death.
Thorburn's father Rick murdered Tiah in October 2015 and dumped her body in the Logan River after he and his wife Julene learned their son was abusing their foster daughter and that she might be pregnant.
Trent served 16 months in jail for incest. His mother and brother Josh were convicted of perverting the course of justice.
His father is serving a life sentence for murder.
There is no doubt that Thorburn has served his time and that he has a right to live his life now that the legal system is finished with him.
But Australian women also deserve to know about his past so they are fully informed about the risks of entering into a relationship with him.
Unfortunatly - dating apps do not come with sex or DV offender warnings.
Yet they should.
Despite rapid growth over the past decade and a mammoth uptake of their product, dating apps and social media developers haven't worked out how to monitor users with histories of violence or sex offences.
Last year, my friend and colleague Owen Jacques filed an expose examining the link between sexual violence and dating apps.
In his report for the ABC, he revealed police and rape counsellors were helping an increased number of survivors assaulted after meeting someone online.
Australia does not seem to have specific research into the prevalence of dating app-related violence but statistics from England revealed crimes involving dating apps increased seven-fold in just two years.
The researchers examined data from 30 law enforcement agencies, finding significant levels of rape, grooming and attempted murder connected to the world's two biggest apps - Tinder and Grindr.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows 1.6 million Australian women and 500,000 Australian men have experienced sexual or physical violence at the hands of partner.
This means there are a lot of potential offenders in the dating pool.
Australia does not have an easily accessible national violence offender database for people to check before entering into a relationship.
This - and the growth of online dating technology - means the developers of dating apps have to work out a way to ensure they are not allowing abusers to use their platforms to prey on potential victims.
Women have long been protecting themselves in public so it is no surprise that they are finding interesting and unique ways to keep themselves safe online.
For example, Elena Zuban - a Russian woman who recently moved to Australia - created CharmSafe.com.
This SMS service allows users to enter the details about the date they are going on and to check in as it progresses. If they become uncomfortable, they trigger an alert that pings on another person's phone.
This also happens if the user fails check in at a given time.
Rach Mac, the founder of Broken Crayons Still Colour, is another female who has decided enough is enough.
Concerned about women being harmed by the Glenn Hartlands of the world, she recently opened a secret Facebook page where users drop the photos of men they think women should be aware of.
The contributors also provide background information on the "offenders" including any charges, convictions and copies of DVOs.
It's similar in tone to the "Sh-tty Men in Media" list that flared up in 2017.
This publicly accessible Google document created by Moira Donnegan allowed Americans to add anonymous reports of alleged sex creeps to the database.
Formal complaints were filed against some of the men named on the list, with a small number being investigated and a few losing their jobs.
Both the "Sh-tty Men in Media list and Rach Mac's secret Facebook group are fraught with legal issues including the potential for creators and contributors to find themselves facing lengthy and extremely costly defamation actions.
But Rach shrugs this off saying: "My group was created to protect women in the dating scene, especially those using online dating apps. The creators of these apps have little to no regard for the safety of the women using them - I want to out abusers, pedophiles and rapists.
"If the dating apps can't protect women, I will."
Dating apps survive and thrive off their users, making mega bucks and employing thousands of people across the globe.
So the companies behind these products have a responsibility to ensure the men and women using them are hooking up with people who are not dangerous.
We expect car makers to provide safe vehicles, architects and engineers to design safe buildings and infrastructure, chefs to serve safe meals and airlines to provide safe planes.
Why shouldn't we expect - and demand - the same of dating apps?
*For 24-hour domestic and sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800737732.
News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is a finalist in the 2019 mid-year Walkley Awards for journalism excellence and the recipient of a 2019 SOPA gong, two Clarions and other journalism awards for her work highlighting violence in Australia. Sherele is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the creator of the Australian Femicide & Child Death Map.