Women Using Dating Apps Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment

As online dating grows in popularity, women report an increase in harassment.

ByABC News
November 30, 2016, 9:21 AM

— -- As the popularity of online dating apps soars, a high number of women are reporting that they experienced sexual harassment on dating sites.

A startling 57 percent of women and 21 percent of men report experiences of harassment in online dating, according to a 2016 opt-in survey by Consumer Research. The frequency of such experiences ranged from "once or twice" to "always."

Alexandra Tweeten, 29, told "Good Morning America" that she has received dozens of harassing messages that she called "sexist and hateful" while using dating apps.

Tweeten decided to fight back by creating an Instagram page, "Bye Felipe," with the aim of publicly shaming her harassing online suitors. On the broader issue of sexual harassment online, Tweeten also started a change.org petition calling on Facebook to ban the sending or posting of illicit photos through its site.

"Not every man harasses women," Tweeten said, "but every woman you know has been harassed at some point."

A 2013 report by the Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of women age 18 and up who use online dating services report contact through sites and apps that "made them feel harassed or uncomfortable." In another 2014 study on online harassment overall, Pew found that young women, ages 18 to 24, experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels; 26 percent say they have been stalked, and 25 percent say they have been sexually harassed online.

In August, a young woman publicly showed how even something as seemingly innocuous an object as her headphones could garner lewd sexual advances on the internet. Catrin Williams posted a photo of a new pair of headphones on Snapchat and told ABC News that she received lewd comments in response to the picture, including, "You wearing those, and nothing else, that would be heaven." In response, she took to Twitter and posted her original photo with the sexual comment side-by-side and the photo went viral.

"This isn't the fault of the person who's getting the comments," Williams told "GMA." "This is really the fault of the person who's sending comments."

Dr. Michelle Golland, a clinical psychologist in private practice told "GMA" that she thinks sexual harassment on dating apps has "become an unhealthy part of the dating app world."

She added a common idea that people are being too sensitive in reaction to this online harassment is not true. "I think people aren't sensitive enough," Golland said.

Golland said that the spillover effects from sexual harassment online can be detrimental to the victims.

"You feel afraid, you feel that you can't go out into the cyber world without being harmed," Golland said.

To help fight the trend, she said victims should report instances of sexual harassment and refuse to tolerate it.

"I think that the most important thing that needs to change for the dating apps is that people need to speak up," the psychologist said, encouraging victims to report instances of sexual harassment online and not to tolerate it.

ABC News reached out to Tinder and OK Cupid for comment.