Dating is an integral part of our lives. For thousands of years, dating culture evolved to fit the times. Today, with online dating platforms, finding someone to go on a date is simple: all it takes is signing in to one of the many available dating apps and finding someone you’d like to meet.
However, meeting up with complete strangers sometimes comes with risks. We discuss these below.
Usually, people talk online for at least a few days before agreeing to meet in person (though obviously there is some variation around the norm). This makes sense: while online chatting is great, it doesn’t have the intimacy -- or honesty -- of meeting face to face. Meeting in person provides assurance that you are who you say you are.
The first date is always about socializing and getting to know each other better. For this reason, people often meet up at a cafe, restaurant, or even a bookshop. If your match suggests a more secluded space for your first date,that is a red flag. Do not go to their house, cabin, or anywhere remote. Insist on meeting in a well-lit, busy area. If you want to take a walk after having dinner, do so on a bustling thoroughfare.
Timing is also important. If you can only manage to meet in the evening or late at night, then inform your date that you have to be home at a certain time. If your date suggests meeting up late, in a rural location, it’s best to block them immediately. Don’t bet your safety on the good intentions of a stranger.
If, after initially meeting in public during the day, your date insists on going somewhere private, then that is a red flag. Refuse the offer and observe their behavior. If they get upset or irritated by the rejection, then you probably should leave immediately.
Harassers -- and other people with questionable intentions -- will often agree to all your initial meeting conditions when you’re just chatting. These dishonest types have a pattern: the moment you meet up for the first time, their ideas, views, and approach to you will change radically. Take note.
Prevention avoids inconvenience, and dating is no exception. When on a first date with a person you just met online, don’t forget to tell someone about it. Give a friend, family member, or anyone else you trust an outline of where you’ll be, when you’ll be on the town, how long you expect to be out, and flash a picture of your date.
Before the first date, be sure to have a backup plan. Have a go-to reason to leave the date in case something goes wrong. If needed, involve people you trust in the plan. For example, you can ask one of them (over phone chat) to give you a call and pretend it is an emergency.
If you need immediate help, ask the people around you. If you are at a cafe, say that you are in trouble out loud. This will most likely scare your date away. If that doesn’t help -- or if you are in an area with no people -- call 911 immediately. Tell them your current location first and everything else afterward. If you have time for it, also dial the National Street Harassment Hotline: 855-897-5910.
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