This is my first post on relationships and dating, which is exciting. I’ve been in a steady relationship since 2016, so dating hasn’t really been the forefront of my thought process. In my day job as Head of PSHE in a secondary school, I’ve been thinking about it a little more; thinking about how risky the world of dating online can really be. It’s horrible to even consider, but as people, we need to be cautious of others. We need to think about dating online safely.
Please don’t think this is going to be a post where I victim blame. Victims of crime and violence are not to blame for the actions of others. However, with all risks, we need to take precautions to ensure our safety. After all, if someone drives into you while you are crossing the road, that’s their fault, but you can prevent this by looking both ways and using designated crossings. There are an array of precautions we can take when participating in online dating. So, although women, and people in the trans community are more likely to be victims of violence on dates, today’s post is aimed at all people, how we can all stay safe.
Between 2014 and 2016, I had a bit of a Tinder addiction. It got so bad that on numerous occasions, I ran out of talent in my local area entirely. During that time, I went on a handful of dates, never really thinking about my personal safety. But, after a slightly awkward one where a guy opened his door in a Halloween mask, I realised I needed to be a little more cautious. From then on, I started taking steps to make sure that I would not be another statistic.
Meet in a public place
After the Halloween mask incident I quickly realised that I really needed to meet people in public places instead of their home or flat. I’d never know if they were a decent person, or waiting with a gang of friends to rob me.
I decided that the only way to safely online date was to meet people in coffee shops, pubs, or bars. I always drove my own car for the first date, so I knew that if I wanted to make a quick getaway, I could. Usually, our gut instincts are correct; we might realise the person we’re with is a wrong’n, so God forbid having to rely on them for a lift home.
Perhaps I should have said earlier – Dan and I met through dating online. But we had our first date in my standard date spot: a Costa Coffee in Lakeside Shopping Centre. After a large latte, we realised we wanted to eat, moved on to a restaurant, and spent literally the rest of the evening laughing and chatting. I still got into my own car and drove home.
Save the intimate stuff to a later date
Unfortunately, there are far too many stories of people dating online and having horrific things happen to them. Too many times, people have tried to use BDSM and subsequent accidental deaths as excuses for premeditated murder.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not criticising the one night stand. If the average UK adult has 10 sexual partners, surely most people have had at least one. But hooking up with your mate’s school friend on a night out, or the best man at your cousin’s wedding isn’t quite the same as hooking up with a complete stranger off the internet. A friend of a friend is someone you have a relationship connection to, someone that can be held accountable for poor behaviour. You have no idea if the person you are meeting with online actually has the name they’ve given you.
If you use the first few dates to build a relationship, it gives you time to spot red flags that you might not have noticed on the first date. Like the person who told me to ‘shush’ because I was talking too loud.
Make sure friends and family also have the contact details
And finally, just before a second date with… let’s call him Greg, I gave my mum all the information I knew about him. I would be driving to his house in Walthamstow, getting in his car, then going to an unknown location. He could have taken me to an alleyway and cut me into pieces. He didn’t. We went bowling in Tottenham, but you get the point. My mum had a sheet of paper with his full name, phone number, and the address he had given me just in case.
Of course, if the worst were to happen, this information wouldn’t save a life, but it could lead to the criminal being brought to justice. Likewise, you might want to make this clear to your partner as a preventative way of dating online safely. If they were planning on harming you, they might think twice if they know people can easily link them to the crime.
You might also want to activate location trackers on your phone while you are on the date, so your family or friends could find your location if needed. My mum tracks my flights every time I go on holiday. If I’d had a tracker, she would have insisted on using it! To be honest, I don’t even mind.
With all this in mind, I still love the concept of dating online. It’s revolutionised the dating scene, and created a medium for people to meet others they probably never would have. After all, I met Dan on Tinder, and now we own a house.
For more information on how you can stay safe while dating online, visit this website.