Updated: Aug 14, 2020
What in the Hell Happened to Dating: How to Date Safely Online.
Gone are the days of Carrie Bradshaw wistfully contemplating the ins and outs of dating scenes with a Cosmopolitan in hand and girls who brunch. Now we have a much more serious problem, dating has gone online.
Whilst this can have benefits for time poor women with no cocktails in hand, it also comes with a very serious dark and dangerous underside. Catfishing, finding your pictures all over the internet and the most devastating of all, sexual assault and stalking. All we wanted was love or sex and suddenly we find ourselves in a minefield of sexual predators.
This is exactly what happened to one of my students, Maree*. Seemingly innocent conversations with a seemingly nice guy ended in him stalking her and how he found her absolutely astounded me. He found the location of her house from her photos!
The world is evolving and we aren’t the only ones trying to evolve with it, predators have now taken to online dating sites to stalk their victims. Looking at the articles on online dating, one of the things that pops up is how they thought they were talking to a really nice guy who says all the right things and makes constant, meaningful contact.
The risk of experiencing sexual assault or stalking are on the rise. If we do experience it, that trauma may prevent us from looking for love again. Most of us crave a little love in our lives so we shouldn’t stop dating but we can try to reduce the risks of harm by following some simple guidelines on online-dating safety.
“Never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you” - Joey Adams.
As a single woman I want to be able to enjoy my dating adventures without so much fear. I continue to navigate this minefield because one day I may stumble straight into the arms of perfect love.
Given that online-dating related rape has increased by 450% in recent years, there is actual and serious cause for alarm but there are ways to minimise our chances of harm. 70% of rapes that occur after first meeting a date happen in the home. Here is our first major opportunity to reduce harm.
So, when people are toying with our emotions and pretending to be someone they are not, what can we do to prevent sexual assault?
How can we pick the rotten apple from the juicy sweet ones?
Firstly, look at their profile. Do their photos look real, is their account verified, what is their language saying? Really consider their conversations. If it starts with “can I suck your toes” or “hey sexy” (this actually happens to me all the time) then I think we know what they want. Are all their photos just showing off at the gym? Pretty sure we can tell who they are thinking about. How quick are they to send the dreaded d*#k pic?
If you are not sure but still interested ask to go to another app like snapchat. Have them hold up a sign with something specific written on it and take a photo, have them send this to you.
This is Maree’s story, she was talking with a ‘very nice guy’ but she decided he wasn’t right for her and turns out she was 100% in touch with her instinct. After she told him she wasn’t interested he took her photos and found the map coordinates implanted in them. Yes this can be done.
Every photo you take has the longitude and latitude coordinates of where you were when you took them! If it’s a photo of your home, well that can be dangerous.
This man decided to harass Maree and made it very clear that he knew were to find her. Luckily for Maree it ended there but she was extremely scared and shaken by the ordeal. To prevent this, you can turn off your location settings when you take a photo.
Every photo you post on the internet remains out there for anyone to find so always be sure you want it to be out there. Even on dating sights where you can’t directly copy a picture people can still take a screenshot. Sure, some app’s alert you of this but that doesn’t stop the damage from being done.
Where to meet a first date can be a confusing decision and sometimes it seems easier to meet at one of your houses. It makes it easier to have a drink and sometimes you are hoping for a little physical loving anyway so why not right? Wrong. Remember 70% of all first online-related date rapes occur in the home and you’ll recall how I previously mentioned how lovely the guys seemed before they showed their true intentions.
Find a public place to meet, one where you can attract attention if you need to. Get yourself a ride home or back to your own car. If you do end up going to a house make sure you let someone know who they are and where you are going.
If you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation you can call emergency services by hitting the off button on your smart phone repeatedly and quickly. This awesome feature calls emergency services and sets off your GPS which will allows them and your emergency contacts to find you.
Let’s face it most people enjoy sex and for some of you, that is exactly what you are looking for with online-dating. No strings attached, good old adult fun. This makes it difficult to employ some of the safety advice, I mean you have to go somewhere for privacy right?
Self-defence training can help you have more freedom in your endeavours as you know you can defend yourself if things take a turn for the worse. Research shows that women who fight back increase their odds of stopping the attack by 86%.
Even with regular dating this is a tactic I personally employ from the onset. I straight up tell them I do Krav Maga. Who’s gonna mess with that! Even if it doesn’t put a potential psycho off trying to meet me, should things go pear-shaped I have my own back.
So, don’t stop dating, don’t be put off by the statistics. You deserve to find whatever it is you are looking for but consider these tips so you can enjoy it to its biggest potential – you go girl.
*name changed for privacy.
Chief Instructor/Founder of Guardian Women