Match.com sued after alleged sexual assault

A California woman sues Match.com after an alleged sexual assault by a man she met through the site. She argues that Match.com should have a process to screen out convicted sex offenders.

You never know whom you are meeting on dating sites.

Now, one California woman is trying to get a court to declare that you actually should be told the bare minimum: whether your potential date is a convicted sex offender.

The woman, identified in legal papers as Jane Doe, is suing Match.com, according to ABC News.

Her attorney, Mark Webb, held a press conference this week to explain the philosophy behind the suit. He said his client had no reason to believe that the man she met through Match.com had previously been convicted of sexual battery.

Criminal charges are pending in the incident alleged in the civil suit, according to ABC.

"When somebody uses their credit card to pay, [Match.com should] basically run the card through a sexual offender database," Webb said. ABC reported that a Match.com lawyer said the company is unable to create such a screening system. It's a little unclear why, though.

Webb told reporters that when his client met the man, the first date went fine, whereas the second turned violent. The man allegedly followed the woman home after the date and sexually assaulted her, the Los Angeles Times reported.

She then apparently went online and discovered that he had several previous convictions for sexual battery.

The woman released a statement through Webb: "This horrific ordeal completely blindsided me because I had considered myself savvy about online dating safety. Things quickly turned into a nightmare, beyond my control."

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Match.com's safety tips offer all kinds of apparently obvious suggestions when you go on a date: such things as making sure you tell a friend where you are going, always meeting first in public, and staying sober.

A Match representative told the Los Angeles Times: "While incidents like this one between individuals who meet on Match.com are extremely rare, it doesn't make them any less horrifying."

But Match.com reportedly stands behind its insistence that ultimately, as with any date, the responsibly for safety is your own.

Webb, however, said he believes that checking names against a sex offender database would at least be something--and that Match has the resources to do so.

Perhaps, though, one of the obstacles is that people don't necessarily admit who they are on dating sites. Not only do they lie about their ages and occupations, but they also don't have to use real names.

The woman is not seeking monetary damages. Rather, she wants the court to issue an injunction to prevent anyone new from joining Match.com until it undertakes to enact screening for sexual offenders.

Some might imagine that, if this lawsuit succeeds, people might be tempted to sue just about business through which they meet someone who subsequently does them harm.

However, online dating sites are specifically created for people to meet. Surely some form of screening for sex offenders would be not only welcome, but good for business.

The fact is, though, that such screening would inevitably be imperfect. And if you screen for sex offenders, should you screen for other kinds of criminals too?

 

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