Recently, Match.com announced that it would screen its applicants against the national sex offenders registry. This is response to a lawsuit from a woman who experienced sexual assault from just such a person who she met on the website.
While this might be considered a triumph for the prevention of sexual assault, this article brings up a few points of doubt. Firstly, the author argues that possibly dating a sex offender is part of the territory of dating, internet-based or no. This doesn’t really convince me–I mean, if one is able to make an environment safer, why not try?
Secondly, he warns that this “invasion of privacy” will lead to a slippery slope where taxes and credit scores will are next on the list of scrutiny. Again, I am not convinced. If one screens for economic resources, that might be considered direct discrimination along class lines. I think that it is far more acceptable in the minds of these companies to weed out those with criminal records than bad credit scores.
The author recommends that there be separate dating sites dedicated to “safety.” But really, isn’t that what everyone wants? Why shouldn’t all dating sites try as hard as they can to be “safe”? And who is going to want to use heyimnotasexoffender.com anyway?
Don’t get me wrong–I have serious reserves about this too. They come twofold. For one, is it really such a good idea to stigmatize sex offenders more than they already are? It can’t help to be rejected by society at every turn when you’re trying to reform. The massive snub that society gives to felons is a big reason why this country’s prisons have revolving doors.
Secondly, I’d be willing to bet that most sexual assaults are not actually committed by registered sex offenders. Date rape and intimate partner rape are extremely common, and this measure by Match.com does not particularly address that. So they shouldn’t be too quick to pat themselves on the back, in any case.
This issue is complicated, and I for one am not completely sure what to think. But the debate rages on!