PEOPLE TO KNOW

posted : Jun 01, 2016

Match.com assault victim: 'I wasn't going to let it destroy my life'. There are plenty of news reports about sexual predators using dating sites and social media as a way of finding victims.

Once stigmatized as a playground for nerds and the socially awkward, 15 percent of Americans say they have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps, and has been a hit with millennials and Baby Boomers. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating nearly tripled from 10 percent to 27 percent in just the last three years, according to a February poll at the Pew Research Center. The number of 55- to 64-year-olds using online dating has doubled in the last three years, the same poll shows.

 By: The Staff Reporters of Georgia Weekly Post.

 

By the time the credits rolled on the TV for the raunchy comedy "The Hangover" that December night, the young woman was very much over her dud of a Match.com date and ready to head home and call it a night.

 

In the course of roughly a week, they corresponded online, via text message and then talked on the phone before they scheduled a dinner date at a local restaurant. At the last minute, he changed plans, saying he was working late and asking if she could meet him at his apartment for pizza and a movie.

 

Not sensing danger, she agreed. But when she tried to leave his apartment that night in December 2009, he forced her to have sex, she testified in a criminal case against her attacker.

 

"It's naive, I know," she said recently at the idea of meeting someone online and having a first date at his home. "You just never consider or think that this would happen to you."

 

"I hope that this doesn't happen to any other woman that contacts this man on Match.com in the future," the woman said in her email to the website on Nov. 10, 2007, adding, "I hope that you take my report seriously."

But in court documents, the dating site admits that a fraud and abuse agent "who was to handle the case did not follow internal procedure and closed the case without taking action."

 

After he was taken into custody and questioned by police in the 2009 attack, Logan denied to police that he assaulted Jane Doe and said he didn't recall dating or forcing himself on the woman in the 2007 attack, according to a police arrest report.

Jane Doe told Georgia Weekly Post by phone, she was thankful that the previous victim had filed a police report but was infuriated that Logan was allowed to remain on the site to meet other women. In addition to the two women, Match.com had received six complaints from website users against Logan, for claims such as using a fake online photo of himself and misrepresenting himself, according to court records.

"That lit a fire in me," she said.

Jane Doe and the second woman's complaint led to double criminal sexual assault cases against Logan. During the  trial in front of a judge, Jane Doe testified that Logan forcibly grabbed and groped her before assaulting her on his living room couch, telling her "Don't fight it. This is how it has to be."

 

 

In a single trial involving both cases, the judge acquitted him in the alleged 2007 attack. But Logan, a computer engineer in Alabama, was convicted of a lesser count of criminal sexual abuse and unlawful restraint in Jane Doe's case. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, ordered to undergo counseling, register as a sex offender and barred from all Internet dating.

Phone messages left for Logan weren't returned and his attorney in the criminal case,  now retired, said he has not spoken with his former client. The attorney for Jane Doe said Logan has yet to respond to their lawsuit filed against both him and Match.com.

 

Now in her late 30s, living in Johns Creek, Jane Doe has moved on with her life, started a long-term relationship and is using yoga and meditation to help clear away the specter of trauma. She said she hoped her words would give strength to other online victims who are suffering in silence. "What happened to me was terrible, but I wasn't going to let it destroy my life," she said.

 

Online dating sites can seem like a godsend for busy working adults like Jane Doe who have little time to find dates or who aren't keen on the bar scene for meeting someone.

 

Once stigmatized as a playground for nerds and the socially awkward, 15 percent of Americans say they have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps, and has been a hit with millennials and Baby Boomers. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating nearly tripled from 10 percent to 27 percent in just the last three years, according to a February poll at the Pew Research Center. The number of 55- to 64-year-olds using online dating has doubled in the last three years, the same poll shows.

 

And there are plenty of news reports about sexual predators using dating sites and social media as a way of finding victims.

This month, a Georgia woman filed a lawsuit claiming the dating site OkCupid.com fixed her up with a man who raped four other women before he sexually assaulted her on their first date. Last month, media outlets across the country closely followed the story of Ingrid Lyne, a 40-year-old mother of three from the Seattle area who disappeared after meeting a man she met on a dating site. Her dismembered body was later found in a recycling bin, and the drifter she met through Plenty of Fish was arrested in connection with her death.

 

"We do see that some people who come in where previously they say 'I met this man at a bar in Buckhead, I met this man at a party' in Dunwoody or Sandy Springs are now saying I met this man on an online dating app," said Christine Evans, legal expert on the subject of Sexual Exploitation.

"We definitely have seen an increase in the number of people who name an online site as a way that they've met the person who assaulted them … and then meeting in person," said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates. 

Finding out just how many online users are victimized can be difficult as sites like Match.com aren't required by law to release statistics on sex assaults reported to their website. Also, as with all sex assaults, victims are often reluctant to report being attacked.

 

"Online dating sites are just another avenue for people who perpetrate sexual violence to identify and gain access to the people that they harm," Majmudar said. 'I didn't want to feed the negativity in me' she added.

 

Jane Doe's suit claimed Match.com was negligent, as it failed to protect her from Logan by not removing, monitoring or banning him from the site after the other woman notified the site that he sexually assaulted her two years earlier.

His Match.com profile wouldn't be removed until after Jane Doe reached out to the website in the days after the December 2009 attack; he created another one after that, but Match.com took that one down, too, according to court records.

 

The suit survived attempts by Match.com to have it tossed, partially because of the site's terms of service which would have required the suit be filed in Texas, the website's home state. But after years of back and forth between both sides, the case against Match.com was settled in late April for an undisclosed sum.

 

Jane Doe's attorney revealed in open court that Match.com turned over numbers that showed they received more than 1,200 complaints involving rape or violence between 2007 and 2009. When asked to provide more updated numbers on reported physical and sexual attacks by Match.com users, a company spokesperson responded in an email that ".0046 percent of our users reported an incident last year compared to the national average of .8 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

 

In open court, Jane Doe's attorney detailed some of the 1,200 complaints by Match.com users: 143 users reported a rape; 48 reported an attempted rape; 22 said they had "first-hand knowledge of a past sexual assault"; 71 "reported third-hand knowledge of a past assault"; 12 said they feared they were in danger of being raped; 47 reported they had been drugged; 340 reported they were victims of "unspecified acts of violence, and 600 reported 'straight violence,'" according to press reports.

 

"The lack of background checks or the failure to cross-reference data to weed out deceptive profiles is only one part of the problem," her attorney Daniel S. Kirschner said by phone "As we learned in this case, perhaps the bigger problem is what websites are doing, or not doing, about actual complaints they receive regarding customer-on-customer violence."

A spokeswoman for Match.com called users being sexually assaulted "rare," adding that the site has protocols for identifying and removing accused users. But the site also urges users to contact law enforcement and to exercise "common sense and prudence with the people they meet, whether on a dating site, through an acquaintance, at a bar or by any other means," the statement reads.

 

Jane Doe readily admits that her road to recovery has been rocky because of the anxiety triggered by the criminal and civil proceedings. Simply turning on the television can be unnerving - from a news report on the Bill Cosby scandal to an episode of "Law & Order: SVU."

Relocating to Georgia, to help her cope, she stopped turning her pain inward and began telling close friends and acquaintances about her experience and was surprised by the support she received, especially from women, many of whom confided that they too had been raped but never told anyone.

 

"It took a really long time for me to learn to forgive myself," she told Georgia Weekly Post.

 

In using meditation as a tool for recovery, she took to heart an old Cherokee parable her meditation coach passed on to her. As the story goes, two wolves live within all people - one representing evil, self doubt and sorrow; the other representing goodness, love and hope. The wolf that lives is the wolf that person feeds.

"I didn't want to feed the negativity in me," she said, wiping away tears. "I deserved better. I was ready to start forgiving myself, and I decided enough was enough." she told Georgia Weekly Post.

 

 news.desk@georgiaweeklypost.com

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