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Online dating dangers: how states are stepping up laws

A 35 year old man was charged with kidnapping after taking a 19 year old girl against her will. The women told investigators she met Michael Dickson, the suspect, thru the app called “Plenty of Fish.” According to a recent study, one out of four couples meet online in the U.S with over 40 million people signed up for dating apps. These apps provide access to millions of people offering a widening universe in which those intent on violence can prowl.

Illinois and New Jersey are several states that have passed measures aimed at making cyberspace safer. Online dating companies such as E-harmony,, and Sparks network have pledged to check users against sex offender registries and criminal backgrounds.

A recent study by Pew Research in Washington found that 30 percent of online daters search about their possible date before meeting them. However in the case of Michael Dickson, the victim did not know of his criminal background. If she had, it would have shown a history of arson and burglary charges from Weaver’s tire services back in 2011, and that he was currently on parole.

Dickson reportedly told the victim, after picking her up from her house, he was now her “dominant,” she was his “submissive.” “As long as she did what he said, she would be ok.” According to authorities, Dickson raped her and kept her from contacting her mother with her phone.

In Missouri, there were 1,510 reported rape cases in 2012, which meant that one rape was reported close to every 6 hours. According to law enforcement, there’s no way to know what percentage of sexual assaults are linked to online dating.

In 2012, Illinois adopted the Internet Dating Safety act, requiring online dating websites to disclose whether or not they conduct background checks on members. Companies that violated the law could face fines up to 50 thousand dollars.

Dating websites such as Omegle, picks someone at random and lets you chat in a chat room. Displayed on their front page however, is something that users need to be aware of: “Predators have been known to use this site. So please be careful.” was one of the first major online dating companies to screen members to determine if they were married, felons, or sexual offenders, and about 2 percent of those who tried to sign up were rejected from the site.

According to Boone County Sheriff Department there are no laws in Missouri similar to those in Illinois. If there was any similar type of law in existence, it would only protect children, it would not protect adults.

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