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Online dating website implements sex-offender screening measure

We often post about Wisconsin's tough sex-crime laws, as well as the strict punishments which sex offenders face. But as we wrote last week, some sexual acts such as statutory rape are often considered crimes in name only.

Nevertheless, those convicted of a sex crime will likely end up on the sex offender registry, which can limit everything from their job opportunities to where they can live. And now, being on the sex offender registry may also bar someone from searching for romance online.

The popular dating website Match.com recently announced that the company will begin to check its members against the national sex offender registry.

The company decided to implement this screening process following a class-action lawsuit against the company filed by a Match.com user. The woman's lawsuit alleges that she was raped by a man who she met on Match.com in 2010.

The man now faces pending felony charges for the alleged rape. According to the woman's attorney, the alleged rapist has six previous convictions for sexual battery. A screening of the sex offender registry would likely have revealed this information.

Match.com says it will implement the new screening process within the next 60 to 90 days. The goal is to prevent future incidents, presumably by prohibiting registered sex offenders from joining the site.

But in light of our past discussions about sex crimes and the sex offender registry, there may be some problems with this measure. First, the sex offender registry itself is not complete or accurate, so it remains to be seen if a screening process would prevent sex crimes involving the dating site.

Second, it may impose unnecessary restrictions on those convicted on a technicality. For instance, statutory rape is one of the most common sex-crime charges in Wisconsin, yet many cases involve consensual sex between two teenagers. Unfortunately, if the older partner gets convicted of statutory rape, he or she may have to spend decades as a registered sex offender.

These people are not dangerous, and many argue that they are not even immoral. Should they be forced to face yet another social stigma because they are on the sex offender registry?

Source: Reuters Westlaw News, "Match.com to screen dating site for sex offenders," Daniel Lovering, 19 April 2011

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