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How to Stay Safe on Dating Apps in Australia

Dating in Australia can be one of the most exciting and fun parts of the international study experience. As our world becomes increasingly digital, it’s no surprise that the use of dating apps has become all the more common in recent years. While these apps can introduce you to interesting new people you never would’ve met otherwise, it’s important to be aware of some of the risks of using these platforms.

According to data from a 2022 Australian Institute of Criminology survey of nearly 10,000 app users, approximately 3 in 4 respondents had experienced online sexual violence – such as abusive or threatening language and/or unsolicited sexual images – in the past five years. One-third of participants reported experiencing abuse in person from an individual they met on a dating app. Of those who reported such incidents, 27 per cent mentioned incidents such as sexual assault and sexual coercion (e.g. drinks-spiking).

In response to these concerns, major dating platforms in Australia have pledged to improve safety measures under a new code of practice. This initiative, backed by the federal government, includes better detection of harmful behaviour, banning abusive users, and escalating safety complaints to the police when necessary.

Even with these new rules in place, it’s always good to be mindful of your safety when using dating apps. Here are six practical tips to help you stay safe while enjoying the dating experience.

Set boundaries that work for you

The sex and dating culture in Australia is known for being very laid-back and progressive. It’s not uncommon to casually date multiple people at once and sex in Australia is not seen as particularly taboo, which can sometimes prompt people to be more bold or forthcoming in their romantic or sexual advances. 

However, if this kind of attitude towards sex and dating isn’t something you’re comfortable with, that’s completely fine! You get to define your own boundaries and decide what you are and aren’t okay with. 

Read more: Your Guide to Consent in Australia

Don’t share personal information

Even if you’ve been chatting to someone on a dating app for a while, never share personal information with anyone on these sites. Examples of information you should always keep to yourself include:

  • Your work or home address
  • Personal ID numbers (such as your passport number, driver’s licence number)
  • Financial information (such as your credit card number)

Block and/or report any inappropriate or aggressive users

If you ever do receive abusive, threatening or derogatory messages from someone you connect with, don’t hesitate to report this behaviour to the platform. It’s a good idea to screenshot these interactions before you do so; by keeping a record of these offences, you can provide proof to the app’s disciplinary authorities. Reporting this kind of behaviour can help remove these types of users from the app and therefore prevent further harm to others. 

You can also block any user who disrespects you or makes you uncomfortable. When you block a user, they will no longer be able to see your profile or send you messages. 

Opt for public dates

Sure, first dates can be a bit awkward – and sometimes, in these uncomfortable moments, the last thing you want is an audience. But it’s vital to only meet people off dating apps in public settings, at least for the first few meetups. Ideally, try to schedule dates in well-lit, highly visible spaces. That way, you’ll be as safe as possible while you get to know the other person. Great date spots could include cafes, restaurants, parks, markets, museums or art galleries. 

Share your location

If you’re headed out on a date, be sure to tell someone you trust – like a friend or a housemate – where you’re going and who you’re meeting. You can even go one step further and share your live location with them on your smartphone. iPhones have a built-in Location Sharing function or you can use the one on Facebook Messenger. Doing so will help ensure your security throughout the date.

Don’t rely on your date for transportation

Taking care of your own transport to and from the date is crucial for your safety. After all, getting into a car with someone you don’t know well – even if you’ve been talking to them on a dating app – can leave you in a vulnerable position. Instead, organise your own travel, whether it’s walking, cycling, driving or taking public transport. 

Trust your gut

When it comes to staying secure while dating in Australia, your instincts are invaluable tools. Odds are, if your gut is telling you something is wrong, then something is wrong. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid of offending someone by unmatching them, cancelling a date, or leaving a date early. 

Where to seek support

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or violence from someone on an online dating app, there is support available to you. Consult our list of resources or contact the 24/7 National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT.