Last week Match.com was sued by a female member who claimed that a man she met on the site “brutally sexually assaulted” her and that the member was previously charged with six counts of sexual assault. In the users eyes it was the responsibility of Match.com to screen national sexual predatory registries and deny those users the right to the site.
Immediately following the filing of a lawsuit by that “Jane Doe” Match.com president Mandy Ginsberg announced that the company would begin screening new users against the national sex offender registry, even though that database does not always contain accurate information, which in turn could lead users to a false sense of security.
In the lawsuit the lady, known as “Jane Doe” has asked that no new members be allowed to signup to Match.com until they have developed a method to screen out all sexual predators.
While the ladies motives are no doubt pure, they are ridiculous and here’s why:
First, the predator database is not a “level playing field” for example, an 18 year old male in one state may have been convicted of statutory rape of his 17 year old girlfriend when her parents pressed charges, even though both parties consented to their sexual relations, while in other states the age of consent may be 16 years old. A computer audited system will simply deny the 18 year old male access to the site based on a “hit” to their name. Under this type of circumstance Match.com discriminates based on geographical location within the United States, the exact type of discrimination that could lead to further lawsuits against the company.
Second, as Match.com President Ginsberg states, the National Sexual Registry is not always accurate. While a female member may feel completely safe with her dating choice, there is no guarantee the member was not overlooked in the database or that they have not committed crimes that they have not been arrested for. The fake sense of “security” that comes with this lawsuit could mean a member lets their guard down when in fact they should be paying attention to their dates motives.
Third, there are no cases of precedent (at least that I could find On Lexus Nexus Law) in which any other organization could be held responsible for a female or male member interacting with a sexual predator through contact of their own choosing. For example, if you are sitting at a bar mingling with various members of the opposite or same sex, it is in no way the responsibility of your bartender or the bar owner to screen those individuals at the bar for past sexual offenses. Even if you meet those people during a “date night” or “singles night” at the bar, that institution is under absolutely no obligation to run background checks and warn you of the dangers involved, even while you may have been drinking large amounts of alcoholic beverages. Unlike bars and other meeting places for adults, Match.com at least has a credit card on file, ensuring that if a horrific case of sexual assault occurs they can pass on the users information to police, while a random bar assault can lead to no leads for police to follow. If anything Match.com by gathering credit card and billing information have already provided more security for their users than any other meeting place.
What happened to that particular Match.com users is horrific, there is no doubt about that fact. However, in a connected age where information is readily available, it should be the responsibility of the user to gather their own facts. The National Sex Registry is a free database that “Jane Doe” could have accessed in her own time, yet she is now blaming Match.com for not doing her homework for her, it’s an unfair request from a jilted user.
I applaud Match.com for quickly resolving the issue, however their new practice could lead to discrimination in cases where both parties were consenting “adults” for lack of a better term (our 18 and 17 year old example), a sense of false security and added pressures on other websites to provide unreliable checks and balances because users pull the trigger on lawsuits that are without merit.
I tend to get attacked by feminist groups when I talk about “women issues” online, therefore I want to make myself clear, I am sickened by what happened to this Match.com member, however a national registry check isn’t going to help save other women in the future, in fact it could lead non-arrested predators to the site when they realize women feel “safe” by the company’s new checks and balances and that scares me more than a quick background check that may not be reliable in the first place.