Although this post aims to provide tips and advice on how to help keep yourself safe, it is not 100% effective in preventing sexual harassment or assault. However, know that if something does occur, you are NOT at fault and that SARC is here to help.
After being forced to stay in our homes by COVID-19 for more than a year, summer has brought a beacon of hope as vaccinations administered increase and reported cases decrease. Sporting events have resumed, cities are slowly opening back up, businesses are re-opening, and people are able to reconvene safely again. One especially prominent activity that has seen a spike in activity is going on dates in-person. During the peak of COVID-19, interaction was scarce for many; virtual dating and dating apps became one of the only ways to seek and build romantic connections safely during quarantine. Now, as the world begins to find some semblance of normalcy and meeting people face-to-face becomes relatively safe again, more people are finally feeling comfortable enough to meet up face-to-face with potential romantic partners to get to know each other bett
Another reason that face-to-face meet ups have risen is due to increased travel. Before, borders were closed and travel was deemed high-risk so many popular tourist destinations lost a lot of business. Today, traveling has reached all-time highs as people enjoy those lower-than-usual prices they took advantage of during the height of the pandemic. Being in these new places often intrigues people to seek connections through dating apps whether that be to just casually hook up or for something a little more serious. However, traveling to new places, especially abroad, and meeting new people poses many more risks. Oftentimes, travelers on vacation are not familiar with the area they are visiting or may be travelling alone. This can severely jeopardize one’s safety and makes it even more important to be careful and prepared for many possible scenarios. In general, regardless if you are in a new place or not, it is always a good idea to take precautions to ensure your safety as much as possible. That way, if something bad were to happen to you, then you know that there are others who are aware of your whereabouts, are expecting some type of response, and should be able to help if they receive a concerning response or no response at all.
TIPS FOR ONLINE DATING SAFETY
Here are some tips that you can use to maximize safety using dating apps and navigating online dating according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN):
When Connecting Online…
Avoid connecting with suspicious profiles. If you match with someone that doesn't have a bio, any linked social media accounts, and only has one picture, it could be a fake account. It’s important to be careful when connecting with these types of profiles.
Vet your potential date on social media. If you know your match’s name or handles on social media, look them up and check that they aren’t “catfishing” you by using a fake social media account or stealing someone else's identity.
Block and report suspicious users. Do not hesitate or feel badly about blocking and reporting another user if their profile is suspicious or if they are acting inappropriately. It is perfectly possible for people to misrepresent themselves and you should follow your gut on whether you feel someone is being truthful or not.
Examples of user behavior you may want to report can include:
Requests financial assistance
Sends harassing or offensive messages
Attempts to threaten or intimidate
Hold off on sharing personal information. Do not ever give someone you haven’t met in person or just met your personal information, like your: social security number, credit card details, bank information, or work or home address.
Ignore and delete requests for financial help. No matter how convincing someone’s reason may seem, never respond to a request to send money. If you do get such a request, report it to the app or site you’re using immediately.
When Meeting In Person…
Consider video chatting before you meet up in person. Think about scheduling a video chat with them before meeting up in person for the first time. This can be a good way to help ensure your match is who they claim to be and get an insight into how they really are. If they strongly resist a video call, that could be a sign of suspicious activity.
Tell a friend where you’re going. Take a screenshot of your date’s profile and send it to a friend. Let at least one friend know where and when you plan to go on your date, and let them know your new location if you switch locations last minute or continue your date after the original activity.
Meet in public. Avoid meeting someone for the first time in your home, apartment, or workplace. It may make both you and your date feel more comfortable to meet somewhere out in the open like a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar with plenty of other people around, not isolated places like parks.
Don’t rely on your date for transportation. It's imperative that you control your own transportation to and from the date so that you can leave whenever you want or when you start feeling uncomfortable. Even if the person you're meeting volunteers to pick you up, do not accept unless absolutely necessary and consider asking a friend or family member for a ride.
Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and feel free to leave a date or cut off communication when you feel unsafe. Do not worry about feeling rude—your safety is most important, and your date should understand that. If you felt uncomfortable or unsafe during the date, remember you can always unmatch, block, or report your match after meeting up.
TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR DATE FEEL SAFE
Suggest a public place to meet. While making plans, keep it to one relatively short activity so your date has an easy out if they are not feeling it and to be considerate of their time.
Don’t pry by asking too personal questions. The whole point of meeting in real life is to get to know another person, however, avoid asking a lot of specific and personal questions that could make someone uncomfortable or suspicious of your intentions. Focus on asking about their interests, hobbies, career, music taste instead.
Listen to and respect their wishes. If your date says they want to limit how much they drink or get home a little earlier so they can wake up early for work, respect that and support it. Don’t pressure them into staying out longer, going to a second activity, or having another drink.
Get consent. Not just if you go home with someone but be sure to pay attention to body language and facial expressions as well. If they tense up when you touch them, put your arm around them, or look uncomfortable when you move closer, give them some space.
It all comes down to showing respect… to their time, space, and privacy, and remember that you deserve that in return when you meet up with dates.
STATISTICS TO KNOW
1 out of every 10 sex offenders uses online dating to meet other people. (2018)
Roughly half or more of 18- to 29-year-olds (48%) and LGB young adults (55%) say they have used a dating site or app.(2020)
6 out of 10 female online dating users ages 18 to 34 say someone via a dating site or app continued to contact them after they said they were not interested. (2020)
57% female online dating users ages 18 to 34 report that another user has sent them a sexually explicit message or image they didn’t ask for. (2020)
19% of younger female users say someone on a dating site or app has threatened to physically harm them – roughly twice the rate of men in the same age range who say this. (2020)
The Sexual Assault Resource Centers mission is to end the cycle of sexual violence in the Brazos Valley through education, empowerment, and advocacy. Some of our free and confidential services include:
Individual Counseling & Support Groups
Prevention and Awareness Education
Whether you or someone you know needs support, or you want to be a warrior for the cause to end sexual violence, do not hesitate to contact us or call our 24/7 crisis hotline (979) 731-1000. We see you, we hear you, and we believe you.