There are about 1.5 million online dating profiles in Australia. Some of those belong to single mothers (or indeed, fathers) just doing their best to get back into the dating scene while juggling the demands of work and family.
Most of them will be fine, of course. They might find a date. They might not. But they probably won’t come to harm.
That isn’t always the case.
Detective Inspector Jon Rouse is the Officer in Charge of Queensland Police’s Taskforce Argos, an online crime-fighting squad of 30 active officers who trawl the net for pedophiles and predators. And he’s come across a disturbing trend.
You’ve recently dealt with a horrifying case involving online dating?
That’s correct. We received a tip-off from our international agencies that a man was molesting a little girl under the age of 10. They thought she might be from Queensland. The referral relied on identifying features in photographs taken of the little girl. They might be things like a distinctive Hills Hoist clothesline, or a certain type of tree. We worked on those details and managed to find the location of where this was taking place. We moved straight away and arrested the man and removed the girl from harm’s way.
How did the man find the girl?
This is the horrible part, particularly for the mother of the girl. She was a single mother who wanted to get back into dating and had set up an online profile on a dating site. And you can’t blame her for that. You don’t have to pay for many of them [to set up a profile] and what better way to meet people if you have kids and you don’t go out as much. Unfortunately, we know there are whole groups of predators out there who trawl these profiles looking for women who advertise they have children. And, you know, that makes sense for the mother to be upfront about having kids because that would be a central part of any relationship she may form.