Every two minutes somewhere in the United States a woman is sexually assaulted. 1 in 4 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape, and 75% of rapes happen when on dates. With the growing popularity of online dating, take precautions and understand risks.
When setting up a date with someone you met online:
- Choose a public place. If you are meeting someone you’ve been in communication with online for the first time face-to-face, make sure you do so at a crowded, public venue.
- Take your own car. Do not allow the person you have been speaking with online to pick you up. Take your own car and meet at the public location.
- Have your cell phone on you. Make sure that your cell phone is fully charged and on you in case you need to make a call.
- Enlist backup. Double-dating or group dating with other couples on the first few dates with someone new is a good way to help keep you safe. Having friends around you will make you more comfortable and decrease the risk of harm.
- Skip the alcohol. Sound judgment is the first thing to go when drinking. Many sex offenders use alcohol as a “weapon” to incapacitate their victim. Stick to non-alcoholic beverages for the first couple of dates.
- Pay your own way. Allow yourself to pay your own way for the first couple of dates to minimize confusion or power differential. Some people think that buying on the date entitles them to something in return.
- Keep an eye on your belongings. Watch your purse/wallet, cell phone and drink when you are out with someone you have never met before. NEVER LEAVE YOUR DRINK UNATTENDED.
- Inform your friends. Make sure you let a friend or family member know about your date – where you are going and who you are going with. Keep your cell phone on you and allow them to check in with you to see how things are going. Be sure to call this person once the date is over and you are home safe.
- Define the boundaries. Assert yourself as a strong individual who is in control of the dating situation. Don’t be afraid to communicate what you are comfortable/uncomfortable with.
- Don’t be overly trusting. Even if the person you are going on a date with seems nice, you still do not really know who they are yet. Do not let your guard down because if you are overly trusting, it may signal to the person that you are an easy target. Rely on your intuition and your gut to tell you if something is not right. Additionally, when first getting to know someone, give details in small doses. Don’t disclose everything about your life in the beginning.
- Look into the individual. If you can possibly speak to someone who knows the person you will be seeing/dating, chat with them and get a better understanding of the person you are meeting. Also, consider looking at this person’s social networking page(s) or other internet references to them.
If you are currently speaking to someone online and plan to meet them, understand the warning signs of an abuser. Abuse is about power and control, and abusers try to mask their efforts to control you, usually by explaining controlling behavior as simply a great desire to be with you. NOTE: Abusers may exhibit many other signs, and some signs are not apparent in the beginning of a relationship, but the following are common:
- Jealousy – He is bothered when you talk to someone else or go somewhere without him, even early on in relationship.
- Possessiveness – He wants to know everything about you, what you do, and where you are, and he wants to have a say in those things.
- Explosive temper – He can switch moods from fine to furious in seconds.
- Not wanting you to spend time with family or friends – He tries to keep you away from people who care about you, who may recognize warning signs before you do, and who will validate your worth.
- Not allowing you to speak freely or have your own opinions – His opinion is always the “right” one.
- Telling you what you can/cannot wear – Whether he likes what you are wearing or not, he wants to have the final say – or the only say – in what you wear.
- Not accepting “No” as a response from you – Not getting his own way is not an option. At first he may try to coax you to accept his point of view or idea, but later he may become violent if you say “No” to anything.
A THIN LINE, MTV's Digital Dating Abuse Campaign
How to Stay Safe With Online Dating (from CallerSmart)
SWiC’s 24-Hour Hotline
570.622.6220 or toll free at 800.282.0634