Online dating has changed the way we meet new people, connect with others, and search for love. However, it’d be foolish to say that online dating doesn’t pose new challenges that the regular dating world didn’t have. It wasn’t long ago many people disliked online dating. Some were even embarrassed about putting themselves online. Because they heard online dating was reserved for creeps, desperate people, or they thought there were too many safety issues in online dating.
These days, the stigma of online dating has almost disappeared. However, there are risks involved, but there are things you can do to ensure you will keep yourself safe and savvy. When you’re on an online dating platform, you don’t really know anything about the person you think is cute, or you might meet up meeting Anyone can go online and claim they’re Prince Charming. When you meet in person, they could be a monster in sexy clothing.
Everyone’s heard of at least one horror story that involves a date that ends badly. To make sure that you don’t end up in a less-than-ideal situation, read this online dating safety guide. You can be safe when you’re online dating and have lots of fun in the process.
Spotting Red Flags Online
The best way to stop a problematic date from occurring is to drop a date before it happens. Suppose you notice any of these issues during chatting online, skype, zoom, or over text. If any of these online dating red flags go up, delete the person, block them, and don’t ever meet them IRL.
1Your potential date gets aggressive when you take “too long” to respond. This is a dangerous red flag since it’s been statistically linked to abusive behavior and assaults. Take your time.
2Your conversation continues to make you uncomfortable. Beware of anyone who keeps trying to push your boundaries when they first meet you or are chatting before you meet. Most abusers and predators push buttons as a way to test whether or not someone will tolerate escalating boundary-pushing behavior.
3Your potential date says he or she lives across the globe. Long-distance relationships can be great, but in many cases, they don’t work out. Because they tend to be “complicated.” And the person who you cyber-meet might not be the person they claim to be. You never really know they’re the real deal until you meet on zoom or have an IRL meet-up.
4Your potential date asks you up for money or gifts. This money-hungry person might not be a real person who wants to date you. Instead, it could be a smooth operator who is filling their bank account by scamming people online. If someone asks you to send something even as small as $5, beware and don’t even send them a penny.
5If possible, schedule a date at a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop where people know you. Having friends in a meeting place can be an online dating safety net for you. Knowing your bartender and waitress is always a good idea, and they can also give their two cents on your date afterward.
6Your date keeps trying to insist on meeting up at their house or yours. This is not normal behavior and should not be normalized. Even if you think your match is perfect for you, meet in a well-lit public place every time.
7Your date asks you for nude photos. Never, ever send pictures of yourself naked to strangers. Nude photos can be used as blackmail or can be used to harm your reputation as a form of “revenge,” if things don’t work out for them. The internet has plenty of malicious sites that would gladly post your images without your permission. Don’t take the risk.
8Though you can’t quite peg what it is, something doesn’t feel right. Sometimes, the red flags are subtle. Your match might seem friendly, act polite, and even be sexy and charming, but something just doesn’t feel right. Listen to your gut, because it’s better safe than sorry. Trusting yourself is number one when it comes to online dating safety.
Setting Up Your First Couple Of Dates
The first couple of dates you have will give you a good idea of who your date really is. To make sure you stay safe, use these quick dating tips when you meet up.
9Tell someone where you are going, and to give them details. You want to give a friend information about who you’re going out with, where you will go, when you’re leaving, and what time you expect to be back. Make sure to call them to ensure that you’re okay. It’s perfectly fine to excuse yourself to text or get a friend to check-in while you’re on a date.
10Meet up in public for several dates so you can get to know your new match. A coffee date might seem cliche, but it’s an excellent way to make sure you don’t end up having to spend a ton of money or have something slipped in your drink.
11Drive yourself and make sure that you’re not being followed home. If your date drives you to and from the date venue, you’re basically held captive until they decide otherwise. Having your own transportation will take that power out of their hands. Get a rideshare, take the train or the bus. It leaves you in charge.
12Don’t leave your drink or belongings unattended. You don’t know your date well enough to trust them with your stuff quite yet. It might seem extreme, but it’s better to find out if your date is untruthful sooner rather than later. There’s no need to leave your purse on your chair. You can leave your drink on the counter with the bartender or the barista.
13Look for your date online before you meet with them. You can easily do a Google reverse image search and also look for their names online. It’s a good idea to make sure that the person you’re talking to is the person they claim to be. Doing this is a quick way to confirm that it’s them and that they aren’t scamming you. Many people are easy to find on social media.
14Don’t be afraid to leave mid-date. It’s okay to end a date prematurely if you notice your date behaving badly, crossing boundaries, or misbehaving in any way that makes you uncomfortable. If your date gets aggressive, call over a barista, bartender, or manager to keep an eye out. And feel free to leave a bad date at any time you see fit.
Sexual Health And Consent
The dating game is also the mating game, and that means sexual safety will come into play. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe here:
15Don’t have sex without a condom. Condoms are the only form of contraceptives that can prevent STDs, and they’re not fail-safe. It’s also essential to keep an eye on your condom to make sure that your date does not take it off mid-coitus.
16Stop the date if you feel he or she is pressuring you for sex, crossing boundaries, getting aggressive, or behaving in a predatory manner. You don’t have to be nice to anyone who’s trying to take advantage of you. It’s perfectly acceptable to ghost them or block them. After all, if they’re already behaving badly with their clothes on, why would they behave better with their clothes off?
17Talk about your expectations when it comes to sexual health and safety. Before you have fun with your online match, make sure they understand what you will and won’t accept in bed. Talking about any health concerns and their STD status can help ensure that ugly surprises don’t happen.
18Even if your date seems very nice, it’s usually best not to sleep with people who have sex-negative ideologies. Studies show that emotionally abusive people tend to have negative views of sex and sexuality.
19Talk about consent, and read up about consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. By talking about consent and verbally asking for consent, you make things ten times better for you and your partner.
What Should You Do If You Feel Like You’re In Danger?
It’s sad but true. You can do everything right and still find yourself not feeling 100% safe on a date. The good news is that you don’t have to be a victim—or at least, there are ways to make sure you have some type of way to get yourself to safety. Here’s what you should do if you’re in a not-so-safe online dating scenario.
20Get yourself to safety by any means possible. If this means calling 911, do it. If it means asking a waitress for help, do it. If it means using self-defense lessons, do it and worry about the consequences later. Your physical safety is the number one issue when you’re online dating.
21Determine if you need to call 911 or go to the police to file a report. You should consider doing this if your date threatened you, if your date assaulted you, or if your date has displayed alarming behavior that gives you a legitimate reason to fear for your safety.
22Report their behavior to your online dating site. Most dating sites will ban IP addresses if they find out that a client has been violent with another person. Many dating sites will also connect you to a hotline that offers you legal advice or options you can do to pursue the case.
23Call a hotline if necessary. Depending on what occurred, you may want to talk to an abuse therapist, a sexual assault resource line, or a theft line. The professionals on these lines are trained to help connect you with the people who can help you.
24Block that person on all platforms. Don’t hesitate to tell them that you will call the police or that you are not going to allow them to contact you again. Then, block them. Screen your phone calls too.
25Report any harassment they try to do. If they persist in trying to get your attention, report it to the police and follow up with a no-contact order. Remember, it’s okay to press charges since it is your safety on the line. You need to protect yourself when it comes to online dating.
Should You Press Charges?
If you have a serious legal case, it makes sense to press charges. Pressing charges dissuades predators from trying to do this to someone else. It can also be an empowering process.
Remember It’s Not Your Fault
In our culture, some people place blame on victims or themselves. Simply because they couldn’t prevent something, it’s important to remember that people who perpetrate crimes are the ones who decide that something terrible is going to happen. It’s not your fault that you trusted the wrong person. Online dating can be filled with fun and open up your world to new experiences. Enjoy the process, and keep yourself safe while you do it.
Here’s a list of some helpful hotlines and websites. If you or someone you know have been a victim of sexual abuse, violence, human trafficking, stalking, harassment of any kind, or if you suspect someone online who is underage—call 911 or your local police department as well as the online dating site. You’re doing yourself and others a favor by reporting.
RAIIN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Advocates and Shelters List
National Human Trafficking Hotline
Love Is Respect
LGBTQ National Help Center
Be safe. Be smart. Be savvy.