A woman, referred to only as Jane Doe, is demanding that Match.com make drastic changes to it’s policies for screening individuals who want to join the site or be shut down after she used the site and was subsequently brutally raped by Match.com member, Alan Paul Wurtzel. Wurtzel had been convicted of sexual assault 6 TIMES before his encounter with Doe.
“This ordeal completely blindsided me because I had considered myself savvy about online dating safety,” stated Jane Doe, an Ivy League graduate who works in television and film.
She said the date started off pleasantly enough but took a dark turn. “It started with what seemed like a pleasant date at Urth Cafe in West Hollywood. Things quickly turned into a nightmare, beyond my control. Match.com must begin to take some responsibility in protecting paying subscribers. I do not want this to happen to anyone else.”
Doe is thinking about taking legal action against Match.com, including a temporary restraining order requesting that no new members be signed up to the site until some sort of sexual predator screen is installed.
“Match.com should not permit its website to be used to facilitate meetings between innocent members of the public and convicted sexual predators who are easily discoverable, as was Mr. Wurtzel,” stated Doe’s attorney, Mark L. Webb.
“We ask that Match.com voluntarily institute a basic screening process that disqualifies from membership anyone who has a documented history of sexual assault. This history could be rapidly uncovered through simple, inexpensive technological means, roughly estimated at less than five dollars a subscriber.”
Wurtzel’s pre trial conference has been set for April 26, 2011.
This is a very disturbing story, but I have to wonder if Match.com should take responsibility for this situation. I completely empathize with Jane Doe and I can’t understand why someone like Wurtzel, a convicted sex offender who committed 6 CRIMES, was even allowed out of jail, but I digress. Doe put her trust into Match.com and she experienced a horrible, violent sexual assault because of it. But, where do we draw the line between personal responsibility and corporate responsibility?
Match.com provides a online matchmaking service. However, should they take more precautions and have a preliminary screening service provided for their clients? Perhaps you could “upgrade” and for a small extra monthly fee, the people that you interact with on the site would have to be “verified” as not having a criminal background. Of course, this still doesn’t protect you from having a potentially violent experience with someone who doesn’t have a criminal background, but it might give you some peace of mind before having that official first date.
Match.com could also provide their clients with a list of “Ways to Have a Safe First Date” to provide useful information to those who haven’t dated much online. Here are some of the tips they could incorporate:
- Go “dutch” on your first date so that no one feels any sort of obligation to “return” the favor.
- Meet in public in either a group situation, a double date or in an area with a lot of people.
- Meet at the location. Have your own mode of transportation to and from the date.
- Don’t leave your food or beverages unattended. It is easy to slip drugs into someone’s drink, so pay attention. If your date buys you a drink, watch the bartender make it.
- Keep your friends in the loop. Let someone know where you are going to be and what time you plan on being home. Text your friend once or twice during the date to check in with them and let them know how things are going.
- Stop after one drink. Enjoying a cocktail on a date is fine, but we all know how alcohol impairs judgement, so limit yourself to one drink. You need to have a clear head when making a decision about your feelings on this person.
- Don’t assume that someone is “safe” just because they claim to be religious, a family man (or woman) or come off charming. Keep your guard up and don’t tell too much personal information at that first meeting.
- Follow your instincts. If something feels wrong or “off”, it probably is.
You never want to find yourself in a situation like Jane Doe did, and maybe if Match.com would have had some sort of screening process in place, a man like Wurtzel would never have been able to contact her. However, now that internet dating is more common than ever, you have to arm yourself with common sense so that you don’t become a victim of sexual violence. Knowledge is power, after all.