NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Like many things over the past year, dating has gone from in-person to online, creating convenience at your fingertips. However, it’s also giving violent predators an easy way to find potential victims.
“They know what to say, it’s rehearsed, they know how to interact online, they have perfected that over the last decade,” explained Laura Wood. Wood owns and operates ‘Love & Lifestyle Coaching with Laura,’ where she helps men and women find lasting relationships.
As a former prosecutor, Wood says she often saw how relationships could turn violent. She explained how oftentimes predators specifically use dating apps, because of how easy it is to use your true identity.
“They’re using the apps because, one, there is a level of being anonymous. Two, they get to create whatever image they want to create with online dating. They want to act like they are a CEO of a company, a quick Google search is going to show you something,” said Wood.
Now, she worries violent dating cases may be on the rise.
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On Thursday, Metro Nashville Police arrested 27-year old Bruno Almeida-Rache, after police say he admitted to putting his victim in a chokehold until he stopped breathing. The victim, identified as 36-year-old Joshua Smithson, was at his East Marthona Road home at around 2:30 a.m. According to police, the two had ingested drugs that night and had sex. The two met through a dating app.
“I think the level of violence gets amped up, and you can become uninhibited and that’s where you see the first date rape cases, the first date violence cases, the first date, and then the stalking behavior.”
Wood says she’s now asking her clients to be on high alert, by giving her clients tips on ways to protect themselves when out with a stranger. She says as COVID-19 spread, and fewer people felt comfortable going out in public, leaving many turning to online relationships.
Some of the tips Wood is sharing include sending “pictures of whoever you’re going out with ahead of time, even if it’s me as their coach. Send the headshot, if you met them online, send the name that they used, and when you send this to a friend, that’s creating safety around the whole experience.”