Did you know: 1 out 5 intimate relationships nowadays is started online?
While in many ways the accessibility and pervasiveness of the internet have done wonders for both casual and intimate communication, the anonymity of the process may hold serious consequences and vast opportunity for exploitation. While shows like Dateline’s To Catch a Predator have greatly publicized the dangers of online dating posed to youth, few people have paused to consider the implications for adult online dating.
With sites such as O.K. Cupid, Match.com, eharmony. com and many others, it is important to take a moment to consider the implications. Most dating sites do not do background checks on their members. Take a moment to consider the opportunities this presents for a sexual predator. While many sites advocate “using common sense” and “safety precautions” when meeting a date in person, they also seem to think that it is sufficient to pay attention to “Red Flags” and watch for suspicious behavior. While this is certainly true, it is also important to consider that predators read these tips too! Therefore it may be difficult to tell the difference between a date who intends harm and one who sincerely wants to get to know you. Sexual Predators could be particularly “sketchy” looking, socially awkward, and generally creepy. They could also be handsome, charming, and appear to be genuinely interested in you as a person. The following is a list of precautions that someone may take when meeting an online partner in person:
Location, Location, Location!
Always meet in a populated, public place in an area that you’re familiar with such as your favorite busy restaurant. A first date is not the time for a hike through the forest or any other remote rendezvous.
Pick a Great Day for It
Meet at a time and on a day that’s convenient for you. Be suspicious if your date insists on meeting at odd hours.
Go Your Own Way
Do not accept a lift from your date. If you can’t drive to the chosen location then get a friend to drive you, take public transport or a taxi. If you can’t get there by yourself don’t go.
Tell a friend or family member where you’re going, what time you’re meeting and how long you expect to be. Give the friend a copy of your date’s contact details and make sure you date knows you’ve done this. Letting your online dating partner know that you’re giving someone else their contact is common courtesy but also makes sure they know people are looking out for you.
Keep your cell phone with you and switched on at all times. If you change locations, such moving to a different bar or restaurant, call or text message your friend to keep them updated. Arrange to have the friend call you at a specified time, such as one hour into the date, to check how things are going.
Dating Under the Influence
Refrain from excessive drinking . Sure, you’re out to have a good time but if everything goes well there will be many, many more good times to come.
Watch Your Stuff
Insist on getting your own drinks yourself or from the bartender!! Do not leave your personal belongings or drink unattended at any time. If you go to the bathroom take your phone, bag and/or wallet with you. Do not risk having your personal details stolen. Keep any drinks close to you at all times and if you’ve left it, leave it. Half a warm beer isn’t worth risking your safety.
Be aware of your date’s behavior and body language. Shows of anger, possessiveness, frustration or attempts to pressure or threaten you should set off alarm bells; proceed with great caution.
Get Help At Any Time
If you are made to feel uncomfortable at any time attract the attention of someone around you. Tell a waitress, a security guard, a passerby, a stranger in the bathroom – just attract the attention and support of someone around you – and leave. If your date insists on walking you to a car parked down an alley or in a deserted parking lot stop where you are, call a cab and collect your car another time. Your safety is more important that worrying about causing your date offense.
Trust Your Instincts
If you feel that something is wrong, trust your gut! Even if you feel that everything is going great, remind yourself that you will have a lot of time to appreciate this relationship and take things slow!
A Note About Sexual Con-Games
Often sexual predators are masters at sexual con-games. While sometimes you may have a feeling in your gut that something is not right, often a sexual predator will lull a person into a false sense of security, using tactics they know to be effective. Make sure you allow a significant amount of time to get to know your date in person before giving them personal information. Don’t be shy about communicating your needs and needing some time to get to know each other. If they are really interested in getting to know you it is important that they respect your needs at this stage and also in the future!
Please Note: While these safety tips may be useful, they are not considered preventative measures to sexual assault. True sexual violence prevention occurs when both men and women work together to challenge the social climate and norms which contribute to sexual assault in the first place. If you would like more information on prevention education trainings or presentations please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.