The number of women under 20 being sexually assaulted after meeting offenders on dating apps has increased significantly since 2016.
Women under 20 now account for 22% of female survivors who are assaulted in this way, which is up from 12% in 2015. The proportion of male survivors under 20 has increased, too, from 25% to 31% in the same period.
However, women aged between 20 and 29 are still most likely to be assaulted after meeting offenders on dating apps. According to the NCA (National Crime Agency), they account for 40% of survivors of this type of crime.
"Although there hasn’t been an overall increase in these offences since our initial report in 2016, it is notable that this form of crime continued during the pandemic, despite the substantial restrictions on people's lives," said Louise Vesely-Shore of the NCA.
"A sexual assault victim is never at fault and we do not want the circumstances in which these attacks take place to cause anyone to doubt that. We want victims to feel confident reporting it to the police."
Vesely-Shore also urged anyone dating online to be extremely vigilant about the potential dangers. The NCA's advice, which is available in full here, recommends meeting someone from a dating app only when you feel ready, and always in a public place.
It also recommends cutting the date short as soon as you feel uncomfortable, or just don't feel as though it's progressing in the way you had hoped.
"We want people to protect themselves when meeting someone in person for the first time, as well as deter would-be offenders from committing these types of crimes," Vesely-Shore added.