Rose’s Tinder date rape nightmare: ‘I said no, don’t do it’

 

SWIPING right is not consent, police have warned, as alarming research revealed 20 per cent of sexual assault cases around Sydney's busiest night spots stemmed from online dating.

With most single Australians having added dating to the long list of activities they do on their phones, the technology has been credited with many relationship success stories.

However, authorities are now also linking it to a new wave of criminal behaviour.

The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered at least 15 cases in NSW in the past three years where women, men and teenagers have been raped, harassed or stalked after swiping right online (the modern-day equivalent of being matched as a potential couple).

Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Squad Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec.
Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Squad Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec.

And despite the lack of official statewide statistics, internal NSW Police research suggests 20 per cent of recent adult sexual assault cases in the Sydney CBD, Kings Cross, Darlinghurst and Newtown occurred after meetings organised online or through a dating app.

That figure doesn't capture the unreported crimes, an issue traditionally associated with sexual assaults, or situations in which victims decide not to press ahead with an investigation.

 

RAPED BY TINDER DATE
It was the early hours of the morning when Rose (not her real name) heard an unsettling but familiar voice outside her bedroom window.

It was 'John', a man she had met on Tinder and shared four or five interactions with before calling time on the underwhelming relationship.

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Despite their brief time together, John didn't respond well to the rejection.

He ignored Rose's pleas to leave her alone and would turn up at her home in Sydney's north unannounced.

His unwelcome visits were always after Rose's children had left, suggesting he was watching the house for the right time to strike.

Earlier this year, the harassment escalated and John allegedly followed Rose into her home and sexually assaulted her.

It was only after Rose built up the courage to make a statement to police that she learned John was a fraud.

Dating app assault victim 'Rosie'. Picture: Toby Zerna
Dating app assault victim 'Rosie'. Picture: Toby Zerna

John wasn't his real name, rather it was a westernised title he used on his Tinder profile.

Using his real name, which can't be published for legal reasons, police discovered there was intelligence to suggest the man was a 'sexual predator', court documents state.

Rose began using Tinder more than a year ago after hearing positive feedback from friends.

"I never walked up to go a guy when I used to go out in my 20s and initiated conversation, I am confident but shy," she said.

"I am conservative in thinking the man should make the first contact.

"But apparently we are in 2019 and that's not the way it works."

She met a lovely Italian man who she shared five brunches with and another man who left her shattered after disappearing without notice.

Those dates had always been in public places but with John, Rose felt comfortable enough to invite him to her home.

They'd spoken on the phone and through messages and the "banter was normal".

After a few occasions together, Rose tried to end contact.

But he continued to turn up to her home unannounced.

Bumble.
Bumble.

Earlier this year, during one of his unscheduled visits, Rose made up an excuse that she had a friend arriving shortly and 'John' couldn't come inside.

"Admittedly I went outside to have a cigarette and repeat myself and say no," she said.

"As I went inside I didn't lock the door quick enough and he came in.

"He started trying to kiss my neck and I said no, don't do it. You're not doing this, it's not going to happen."

Rose says as John pushed her towards her bedroom, she weighed up her best chance of surviving what was about to happen.

"I thought 'do I try and fend him off?" she recalled.

"Does he have a weapon? Will he thump me? Will I be in more danger?"

Once he left, Rose locked all the doors, pulled down the blinds and refused to leave her home for days.

Encouraged by a relative, she called the police to report the assault but wasn't mentally prepared to make a statement, not an uncommon response for sexual assault victims.

Months down the track, Rose heard someone knocking on her window in the early hours of the morning and knew John had returned.

Alarming research revealed 20 per cent of sexual assault cases around Sydney’s busiest night spots stemmed from online dating.
Alarming research revealed 20 per cent of sexual assault cases around Sydney’s busiest night spots stemmed from online dating.

"I thought I would pretend I was asleep," she said. "I did that for five minutes but the knocking and calling my name continued."

Sneaking into her ensuite, Rose called police and said the man who had raped her was outside her home.

When officers arrived, they found 'John', standing outside the home with the smell of alcohol on his breath.

Days later, as forensic officers swept the windows for fingerprints, they noticed footprints all around the exterior of the home.

John was charged with sexual intercourse without consent and intends to plead not guilty, a court heard last month.

With the help of detectives and sexual assault counselling, Rose can speak about her ordeal but not without shaking.

While Rose hasn't returned to online dating, she has heard that John is using a new dating app.

And there is nothing stopping him.

His bail conditions don't ban him from using social media, which a magistrate is entitled to do, and while an apprehended violence order prevents him from contacting Rose, it doesn't protect other women.

 

In April, a tourist in Byron Bay reported being forced to have sex at a hostel with a man she met through a dating app.
In April, a tourist in Byron Bay reported being forced to have sex at a hostel with a man she met through a dating app.

COMING FORWARD

Underlining the issues involved, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal there were at least four incidents in the past 24 months where women reported being raped by someone they met on dating apps Tinder and Bumble but didn't make a statement.

A woman told police in March she was forced to have sex with her Bumble date at his Sydney hotel room.

After meeting a man from Bumble at a Potts Point bar in June, another woman told police she woke up in a strange room and in pain. She caught a taxi straight to hospital.

The last thing she remembered, she told police, was drinking a glass of wine her date had bought ahead of her arrival.

In April, a tourist in Byron Bay reported being forced to have sex at a hostel with a man she met through a dating app.

After agreeing to drinks at a Surry Hills bar with a man she met on Bumble in October, 2017, a young woman told police he drove her home and had sex without her without her consent.

There is a myriad of reasons why sexual assault victims don't proceed with a complaint; fear of retribution, self-blame or the thought of battling a long and traumatic judicial process that pits a victim's word against a perpetrator.

"I think every day that we go forward more people are empowered and more people believe that they can report," Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Squad Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec said.

"By no means am I suggesting it can be a pleasant experience.

"The second worst thing in their life is probably going through the criminal justice system. "The first is the assault itself - without question.

"But what we would say is by reporting to the police, you may be preventing another assault from occurring."

TAFE staffer Tahir Hairder, 45, was charged in August with allegedly sexually assaulting a woman he met on Tinder using a fake name. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
TAFE staffer Tahir Hairder, 45, was charged in August with allegedly sexually assaulting a woman he met on Tinder using a fake name. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Det Supt Kerlatec said only two per cent of his caseload was linked to dating apps with the bulk tied to assaults in a domestic setting.

A majority of adult sexual assault investigations in NSW are handled by local detectives while only the most protracted and complex cases fall to the Sex Crimes Squad.

Regardless, Mr Kerlatec said dating app assaults were a growing concern and perpetrated by people who interpreted a date as an entitlement to something more.

"They have that belief because they have built that rapport and that expectation that they will walk through the door and everything will go their way," he said.

"That is not how it is or how it should be."

One of the biggest challenges for app companies is preventing predators from using the platforms as a tool for technology-facilitated violence.

Apps like Tinder, Bumble and Grindr - popular in the gay, transsexual and bisexual community - don't vet profiles and their have been several examples where men with histories of violence found victims on apps.

TAFE staffer Tahir Haider, 45, was charged in August for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman he met on Tinder using a fake name.

It wasn't until the Central Coast man was arrested that his victim learned his true identity and that he was the subject of previous complaints from women.

Police sources have confirmed it is not their official responsibility to report a profile to Tinder, Bumble or Grindr after they've charged someone with a crime.

Occasionally, courts impose a ban on social media as part of an offender's bail conditions.

However, dating apps largely rely on fellow app users to report when they've been assaulted or harassed.

 

 



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