Earlier this month a civil lawsuit was filed against the dating web site Match.com by an unidentified female Hollywood executive, who said she was assaulted by a man she met on the site.
According to attorney Mark L. Webb, who filed the suit on behalf of the woman, she met her alleged attacker at a cafe in West Hollywood about a year ago. After a second date, he reportedly followed her home and assaulted her.
After the alleged assault, the woman went online and found that the suspect had been convicted of several counts of sexual battery, Webb said.
"This horrific ordeal completely blindsided me because I had considered myself savvy about online dating safety," the woman said in a statement released through Webb last week. "Things quickly turned into a nightmare, beyond my control."
The suit demanded that Match.com screen its members for sexual predators, and Webb asked for a temporary restraining order requesting no more members be signed up for the dating site until there's a way to screen out sexual predators. He said that his client wants the site to check members' names against public sex offender registries.
While Match.com had resisted such screening in the past because of the unreliability of these databases and it didn't want to give members a false sense of security, last week the site announced the company will start screening both current and future subscribers against the national sex offender registry.
I believe this is an important step for Match.com to have taken. I am sorry the woman on whose behalf the lawsuit was filed was assaulted. No one "deserves" to be treated this way. No one deserves to be harmed or fear for their lives at the hands of an assailant.
I do believe, however, that when you make the decision to meet people through an online dating service you need to ensure you're taking responsibility for your own safety. While in this particular case, the woman's alleged assailant would not have been presented to her as a potential match if members were screened against the national sex offender registry, you just cannot assume that if a person doesn't show up on this list that you are safe.
Many of us have made decisions on a whim where dating or sex is concernedletting a person into your house while you're alone or going to another person's house late at night, or sharing more personal information than you probably should. And even if we do so with a certain amount of invincibility in our minds, you should never put yourself at risk without being ready to assume the consequences should there be any. If your friend sets you up with someone who ends up assaulting you, would you sue your friend as well?
I met a number of people I dated using some sort of electronic means, whether it was personals from a newspaper (back in the oldend days), online dating or something similar. Whenever I went to meet a person I always made sure someone knew where I was and who I was with. It might not have protected me completely, but it made me feel a little bit more comfortable. After all, the people who just thought Andrew Cunanan was cute guy sadly paid the price for the whim of going somewhere with him.
Sadly, it's a scary world out there. No matter how much you know about a person, you may never know them. So be careful, be smart and be safe; but be willing to be an adult and accept the consequences of your actions if you're not.