Things That Matter

Major Investigation Reveals That Most Popular Dating Apps Aren’t Keeping Users Safe From Sex Offenders

A 16-month investigation conducted by Columbia Journalism Investigations found that the Match Group which owns 45 popular dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and OK Cupid does not screen for sexual offenders. Match Group does audit users for sex crimes on their namesake property Match.com, but admits that on its free platforms it expects users to police themselves. 

The CJI report found that the policy leaves users vulnerable to sexual assault, and multiple victims have reported rapes because of it. Tinder, the company’s most successful app, has 5.2 million subscribers. Altogether Match Group is worth $1.7 billion in revenue. Many feel the publicly-traded company owes its subscribers more protection. 

Susan Deveau says her Plenty of Fish date raped her. 

When 54-year-old Deveau met Mark Papamechail on Plenty of Fish in 2016, she had no way of knowing he was a three-time convicted rapist. In Massachusetts, he was listed as a dangerous registered sex offender. After going on several dates, Deveau reported to the police that Papamechail raped her. She was the second woman to report Papamechail for rape after meeting him on a dating app. 

According to the app’s terms of use subscribers must “promise” they haven’t committed a felony, sex crime, or violent crime by agreeing to it. Thus the only method of screening is an honor system that assumes any user would actually read through the lengthy agreement. The company does not try to verify or screen for whether users are being honest or not. 

There’s a reason why Match.com screens for registered sex offenders.

Before Match Group bought up its competitors and became publicly traded, it agreed to screen for sex crimes on its flagship property Match.com. When the company expanded it didn’t extend this policy to its catalog of 45 apps. Match.com only agreed to check its users against the government’s sex offender registries after a public complaint from Carole Markin in 2011.

Markin says she was raped by a man she met on the platform on their second date. Afterward, she discovered he was convicted of rape six times. Markin was able to make her lawsuit public having been an entertainment executive herself. Under pressure, Match.com’s lawyers revealed they had begun implementing the screening process that utilized the government registries. Eventually, Markin settled.

A Match Group spokesperson told CJI that the free platforms don’t collect enough data to create a uniform screening policy. 

“There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products,” the spokesperson said

CJI found at least 157 incidents of sexual assault across dating apps. 

Most of the assaults happened within the last 5 years. Almost all of the victims were women who met their attackers on a Match Group dating app. 

“In 10% of the incidents, dating platforms matched their users with someone who had been accused or convicted of sexual assault at least once, the analysis found. Only a fraction of these cases involved a registered sex offender,” according to the investigation. 

However, what was most notable was that Match.com, which does have a screening policy, had no assault cases. Match Group’s spokesperson said that tens of millions of people use their platform, therefore 157 cases aren’t enough to warrant an overhaul. 

 “[Match Group] takes the safety, security, and well-being of our users very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “A relatively small amount of the tens of millions of people using one of our dating services have fallen victim to criminal activity by predators. We believe any incident of misconduct or criminal behavior is one too many.”

Some employees told CJI they don’t think the company goes far enough to protect users.

According to the investigation, many who worked at Match Group feel the company doesn’t equip or train them to deal with sexual assault complaints. Some said the process also fails to prevent more harm even after an incident has been reported because banned users can easily make new accounts.

“The problem has grown as the popularity of online dating has soared — in 2015, 12% of American adults were on a dating site, compared with 3% in 2008,” according to the report. “In 2016, the UK National Crime Agency reviewed police reports over a five-year period and found online-dating sexual assault had increased as much as 450% — from 33 to 184 cases.” 

CJI surveyed 1,200 women who used a dating app with the last 15 years. A third of the women surveyed said one of their dates sexually assaulted them, half of these women said it was rape. Match Group refused to comment on the questionnaire. 

Only five states have regulations to protect online daters, but those measures largely exist to prevent scams. With little pressure for the industry to change and as more victims come forward the future of online dating remains uncertain.

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Latinas Talk About Love At First Sight

Entertainment

Latinas Talk About Love At First Sight

Miramax

In an infamous scene in the 1992 book Like Water for Chocolate, the novel’s main characters Tita and Pedro swear their undying love for each other within minutes of first meeting. Just like that, they experienced love at first sight. Stories all throughout history have detailed the romantic personal experience of an instant and ultimately long-lasting romantic attraction for a stranger upon first sight. But how practical— or even true is that really?

We turned to our FIERCE readers to see just how prevalent this phenomenon is.

In a post to our Instagram page we asked Latinas for their love at first love stories.

And scavenged around Reddit for good measure. Check out what we discovered below!

“Yes. I had briefly met him before but it was the first time I ever really noticed him. We had a whirlwind romance and then he left to take a job in Europe. We kept in touch for a few years but never saw each other again. He is the gold standard I judge men by.” –
adorableadelita

“YES with my dog the second I saw him I knew he was the one!! I’ve had him for 17years now and we are happily ever after.”- virgok1

“Yes but I’m just not brave enough to tell them they’re beautiful tho, most incredible smile I’ve ever seen the most captivating set of eyes I’ve ever looked into. But well love from afar right?” –ta_ta1009

“Yes. And it was delicious, I’ll never forget those Tacos dorados. My one and only.”- funkycold___medina

“Yes! I never knew love could fill your heart like that so instantly and so completely! It was the first time I ever saw my niece! Best feeling in the world!”- yesi_lo

“Not in love but in strong lust.” – magnetic67

“Yes! And we just got married during the pandemic (very interesting way how we got married).”-21djenne

“Just when I first laid eyes 👀 on the paletero in my neighborhood. Jokes aside I love that man, he’s so sweet.”- dreathunder

“Yup met mine when I was 17 yrs old and knew I would marry them. Here we are 18 years later and still together.” –elizabeth_pearl

HelloSchrodi1 point·4 years ago

“We were both 18 going on 19. He was a second year science student, I was a fresh faced firstie at a brand new University. I was also 95% sure I was lesbian. I saw this goofy ginger at the outdoor movie theatre, he had Styrofoam strapped to his head and declared himself Julius Ceasar, and gave me the biggest and most genuine smile. When he asked my name, it was a genuine want not just a question you ask to fill time. My heart squeezed a bit, and we kept eye contact for a bit too long before we both turned back to the screen. The next day we ended up sitting across from eachother in the cafeteria, and as soon as I saw him sitting there with a grin on his gorgeous face I knew I could love him. We were attached at the hip for at least 8 hours every day for a month, it was like a need to be around eachother, a magnetic pull and attraction. We started dating after a few weeks. We both fell in love quickly. I never believed in love at first sight, but we fit together perfectly in every way and every day, even now as we’re 20 with a lot of growth and ‘relationship strainers’ under our belts there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I don’t think of him and fall further in love. We’ve fought a bit, met eachothers families, he’s held my hand in the hospital and I’ve held his. We’ve had the kids talk, marriage talk, finances talk, and we’re moving in together this summer. It’s also pretty great that we have the same taste in women. I have never been happier, and he tells me the same.”-HelloSchrodi

“We met at work, when we both locked eyes we were drawn to each other. After a week of flirting with each other and staring into her beautiful blue eyes, she actually asked ME out. We dated for 8 years and got engaged; being madly in love is perfection. She walked down the aisle about 13 months after she accepted my proposal. She gave birth to her first child 10 months later, and had her second 2 years after that. She’s very happy in her life. Kind of wished she married me instead of the dickhead she met a month after leaving me.” –UrMomLikesMine

“It was a whirlwind. Can’t really explain it. Distance and heavy workloads on both our parts (we couldn’t see each other at all one year) made us end it. Still best friends, still in a sort of a platonic bond. We’ve both seen other people since then (I’ve just had a bad experience), but I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of… ease around someone until months have passed. When she moves here in a few years, who knows? She never will, but if she asked me to wait. I’d say yes in a heasrtbeat.” –ionised

“Yes… now married 10 years.” – juju_bees_mommy

“Well for me it wasn’t at first sight. But for him it was. Within the first week he knew I would be the one he was going to marry and spend his life with. My feelings grew quickly also and we knew we had met our soul mate very quickly. We are doing great. He’s saving up for an engagement ring, both support eachother in our respective fields (me in tattoo artistry and him in filmmaking). Once our financial situation is in order we plan to move to Seattle. I have never been so in love and I don’t regret it for a second.”- BigHeroDicks

elizabeth_pearlYup met mine when I was 17 yrs old and knew I would marry them. Here we are 18 years later and still together ❤️❤️❤️ @fiercebymitu

elizabeth_pearlYup met mine when I was 17 yrs old and knew I would marry them. Here we are 18 years later and still together ❤️❤️❤️ @fiercebymitu

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ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

Things That Matter

ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

According to the Texas Tribune, the key witness in the ongoing sexual assault investigation at an ICE detention center has been deported. She was previously being held at a Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas.

While the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General initially forbid ICE from deporting her, the office apparently reversed their decision on Monday. According to reports, the office determined that “further interviews could be done over the phone”.

via Getty Images

According to previous reports, the unidentified 35-year-old woman alleged that guards had “forcibly kissed” her and touched her on the private parts.

Documents, which were extensively reported on by ProPublica, described the harassment as a “pattern and practice” at this particular detention center.

The woman also alleges that the guards would attempt to extort sexual favors from her and other detainees when they were returning from the medical unit back to her barrack. One guard allegedly told her that he would help get her released “if she behaved”.

The unnamed woman reported the harrasment to her lawyers who then filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. The DHS then opened an investigation into the ICE Detention Center in El Paso.

The FBI has, since then, interviewed the woman extensively. According to documents, the woman gave investigators a tour of the facility where she showed them where the alleged harassment took place–in what were identified as security camera “blind spots”.

According to her, the guard told her that if she reported him, “No one would believe her”.

via Getty Images

Since the woman made these accusations, at least two other women at the same detention center came forward with similar claims. One of these women has already been deported.

According to previous reports, the unnamed woman accusing ICE officials of sexual assault was being held at the El Paso detention center for a drug-related crime and illegally entering the country. She claims she initially fled Mexico after a cartel member sexually assaulted and threatened her.

While ICE says that they have “zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody”, the reality is much bleaker.

According to the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, ICE has had 14,700 complaints filed against them between 2010 and 2016 alleging sexual and/or physical abuse.

In the most recent statistics available, ICE reported 374 formal accusations of sexual assault in 2018. Forty-eight of those were substantiated by the agency and 29 were still pending an investigation. According to Freedom for Immigrants, only a fraction of these complaints are investigated by the Office of Inspector General.

The woman’s lawyer, Linda Corchado, has not been shy about expressing her displeasure over her client’s deportation.

“[The government] allowed their most powerful witness to be deported,” Corchado said. “How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?”

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