If you’re from the Seattle area, you’ve likely read about the tragic turn of events regarding a local mom this past weekend. From what’s been shared on the news and social media, the 37-year old nurse went to a baseball game with a man she’d originally met online.
At some point after the baseball game, he brutally murdered her.
They’d been dating for a few weeks so this wasn’t a first date and she’d trusted him enough to bring him into her home. But the comments flying around revolve around the fact they met online. And many people are saying that’s where she went wrong.
I want to preface this post by saying hundreds of thousands of people meet online, weekly if not daily. There are nearly 50 million Americans who use online dating.
And the vast, vast majority of people never have a brush with danger as a result. Unfortunately in this case, she didn’t realize she’d met a monster until it was too late.
On any dating site, you find a cross-section of the population. Most people are decent and far from violent. However, among all of the decent folks do lurk some bad apples. They lurk online and they also lurk out in the “real” world, too.
The bottom line is this: Whether you meet someone online or face to face, it pays to be diligent about your personal safety.
This isn’t to say we need to operate from a place of fear. And OF COURSE I am not victim-blaming. Because even the most aware of us can find ourselves in dangerous situations through absolutely ZERO fault of our own.
Here’s the thing. As we get older we may become overly confident in our ability to “size” people up. And many of us have blinders on when it comes to what a “bad” guy looks like. Hint: He can look as normal as the next guy, be perfectly charming and intelligent. In fact, most sociopaths are brilliantly charming and cunningly smart.
I think it’s a good time for single people (both men and women) to think through dating practices, and where appropriate make some adjustments.
Many of the following tips may sound incredibly obvious, but I encourage you to read through them anyway.
1. Discuss your dating life. Share with 1-2 people who live in close proximity to you and who you trust. I know sharing your private dating habits seems unnecessary when you are a grownup. But it’s important to make sure people in your life know who you are talking to, which site(s) you’re using, etc.
2. Do some snooping. Before you agree to meet someone new, look online to verify they are who they say they are. My rule was that I should be able to find them on Facebook and/or LinkedIn from the information I knew before the first date. If I couldn’t verify them, I didn’t go on the date.
3. Have a check-in partner on call. For example, on the first few dates, ALWAYS tell at least one person who you are meeting and where you are meeting. Give a few text check-ins through the night. Tell this person if you change locations and always let them know when you’ve arrived home safely.
4. Say no if someone creeps you out. Don’t talk yourself into going on a date with someone, especially if you’ve only met them online. You don’t owe anyone anything. If you’re unsure about the person you’re talking to, don’t go. Trust your instincts.
5. Take time to build trust. When talking with someone online it is easy to feel a sense of familiarity. Based on their profile, you already know many details about each other. Don’t lose sight of the fact that they are still a stranger to you.
6. Be aware of potential predators. There are some men who may try to take advantage of your vulnerability. Are you recently divorced or going through a difficult custody battle? Pay attention to the questions they ask you in advance of meeting them in person. Consider not sharing that you have kids on your online dating profile at all. I never did!
7. Don’t overshare your personal/private information, especially in the beginning. For example, answering questions about your living situation (Alone? Roommate? With kids?) or telling someone your home address should wait until you know them better.
8. Be fully charged. Make sure your phone has a full charge before leaving the house. Really, this is a good rule all the time!
9. Have backup transportation, even if you drove. Download a transportation app on your phone in advance, i.e. Uber, in case of emergency.
10. Say no to the pickup. Drive separately and meet in a public place.
11. Park smart. Always park in a well-lit parking lot or use the valet service if available.
12. Check-in on Facebook or other social media sites. Let your circle of friends know where you are. And you don’t have to say you are on a date.
13. Make friends with your server. In front of your date, tell your server that you are on a date (especially if it’s the first date). Don’t be shy about sharing this information. Your server will be more clued in to watching the dynamic between you two.
14. Stay sober. Your ability to think rationally and make good decisions is your number one defense.
15. Or stay sober-ish. If you’re drinking alcohol, limit to 1-2 drinks. Do not leave your drink unattended. Drink with food. Have a full glass of water between drinks.
16. It’s okay to leave. If at some point in the night you become uncomfortable with the person you are with, end the date. Ask someone to walk you to your car if necessary. I’ve done this many times, even just leaving a grocery store alone at night. If you feel unsafe, don’t be afraid to ask.
17. Keep your dates public until you’ve had enough in-person dates to build trust. I would suggest a minimum of 5-6 dates.
18. Dig into someone’s past. If you are starting to click with someone, do your due diligence to check them out. Most states have court records online that are searchable for free. You can also pay for a site like Spokeo or Intellius to verify and suss out someone’s details. It may feel intrusive to play PI, but your well-being and safety are worth it.
19. Plan a nightcap, in advance. If you plan on bringing someone home for the first time, make the decision in advance and share this information with someone close to you. Yeah, it feels weird to let your friend know you are planning to get it on with someone new. Remember, there is plenty of time for spontaneity (and privacy) with the right person later.
20. Talk to a close friend about your dating patterns. Where are your at-risk points, where are your blind spots. Be as objective as possible and be open to feedback.
Did I miss any tried and true safety practices? Please feel free to share your ideas on my Facebook page. And a quick note to pay my respects to a woman whose life was cut way too short. My heart is with her family. <3