Safe Dating in the 21st Century

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You can establish some safe dating practices before you meet someone online or face to face.

During June of 2019, a female college student from Utah went missing after taking a late-night Ride Share to a park. Law enforcement discovered during their investigation that the female had arranged to meet a man in person that she had met online. The meeting took place in a park during the early morning hours. With the use of technology, police pinged their cell phones to this specific park. It is believed the man met the woman face to face, but soon thereafter killed the woman and burned the body and her personal property to permanently dispose of any trace of her. Although a suspect was arrested, the family and friends of this young college woman will never be the same. This is in no way meant to blame the victim. The suspect and the suspect alone is the sole person responsible for his own criminal deviancy.

These types of cases occur all over our nation, where online dating results in meeting an individual who is a totally different person from the person they communicated with online. Although there are many cases where people have met online and established successful relationships, there are numerous cases to the contrary, where the person they met online was definitely not the individual they claimed to be face to face. Meeting a person online, whether it is through a dating website or using any method of virtual contact, always has risk. One of the best things that both people can do is to employ several safeguards when the virtual contact progress to actual meetings.

A standard dating scenario, when people meet face to face for the first time and decide to go out on one or more dates, also has its risks and there are safe dating techniques that should be used in this scenario as well. Predators, like Ted Bundy, have made history by appearing to be charming at the initial meeting, but once alone, the individual quickly turns into a different person and this has caused the demise of so many young ladies.

The purpose of this article, Safe Dating in the 21st Century, is to help individuals establish  safe dating practices, whether they are meeting online or face to face.

Put on your “bad guy” hat and think like a predator. Remember all the cases you have heard about in the news. Using this knowledge, consider what a predator would do in order to gain control over and commit crimes against victims. Once you can begin to imagine how you could fall victim to a predator, you can take certain safety precautions to help you avoid dangerous situations.

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Below is a brief list of safe dating precautions (safeguards) everyone should take to increase their safety in a dating environment:

  • Do your homework and check out the other person before you actually go on that “first date.” Don’t just take the person’s word for who they say they are. There are several things you can do to attempt to determine the character of that person. In those early conversations, ask the person about their background. How long they have lived in their present location, their work history, people they may know that you also may have in common as friends. Don’t forget to see if they already have established an online social media posture that makes you feel uncomfortable. Verify as much of the information as you can. If things don’t add up, don’t go on that first date!
  • Once you do your homework and think you are ready to meet this person face to face, always meet in public places where lots of people are present. Meeting in public and populated places with this new person provides a small safety net that allows for either Passive intervention or Assertive intervention to occur.
  • Passive intervention takes place when another person notices that something is not right and alerts others to the situation to help. The person intervening may not actively get involved, but it could mean that law enforcement is summoned to the scene to intervene, or they request someone else to step in to help.
  • Assertive intervention is when another person actively intervenes to physically stop some activity where a person could be hurt. Whether this intervention occurs with a friend, relative or just an observant citizen, the person notices something in either the behavior of the suspect, or the victim is obviously in need of immediate assistance.
  • Meet the person at a reasonable and respectable hour. Consider “old school” rules where parents would prefer the suitor to meet at a time (and place) where it would be respectful.
  • Never go alone to meet with a person (date) you really don’t know. This is especially true if you have never met the person face to face. Even if you have had numerous online chats and you “think” you may know the person, you really don’t. Some predators will present themselves as this great person, but once they actually meet with their intended victim they are someone else.
  • Arrange a number of dates with a friend to accompany you to go along as a second set of eyes. Have one or more friends go with you to meet the person. This gives your accompanying friend(s) the opportunity to participate in the evaluation of the person and help you to ultimately stay safe. You friends don’t even have to be sitting at the same table as you and your date. Although it is best if your friends meet the date to “inquire” information and to obtain their impression of the person’s character, your friends could be in a location that gives them the best observation of the person.
  • Make sure you and your friends are prepared to take steps to implement a personal safety plan in the event the person you are meeting presents danger.
  • A safe dating Personal Safety Plan should include these 3 essentials:
  1. A recent photo of the person along with the date, time and location of the meeting place. Have your accompanying friend take this photo and text it to one or more friends. In the event something goes drastically wrong, police have an idea of the person, the place you were and the time you were there.
  2. Your own transportation or travel plans. You should never get into a stranger’s car or allow them into your car if you just recently met them and do not have a very comfortable read as to the person’s character.
  3. Be ready to defend yourself and fight for your life with every fiber of your being. The police cannot be present to save you and sometimes, you must save yourself. If you have not already, seek proficiency in self-defense. Obtain and carry a concealed weapon.

Carry the weapon everywhere you can legally take the weapon that will not cause you to be arrested.

  • Your friend should never leave you alone with this new person until both you and your friend have discussed outside of the intended date’s presence the validity of the person’s character, their implied or obvious intentions, and all concur that your safety is not an issue.
  • After a few observation dates and you are ready to meet the person by yourself, always tell your close friends about your date, their identity and the places you intend on going and what time you are due to safely return home. If you have consented to a change in plans, excuse yourself and text your friend to advise them of the change.
  • Take a photo of the person and text it in a group text to several of your close friends or relatives just in case.
  • Ensure that you and your friend use a code phrase to communicate that you are agreeing to making the change of plans on your own volition. If your communication does not include that code phrase, you friend would know that you may be in trouble and can begin sending authorities to your last known location. Make sure the code phrase is something rather innocuous and if read by the potential suspect, he/she would not see the message as you have attempted to alert others to trouble.
  • Be accountable and time sensitive. If your friend has not heard from you by a certain time, perhaps it is time to send for the cavalry to rescue you.
  • Do not voluntarily partake in any activity that may decrease your ability to react to any potential danger. Never allow yourself to become intoxicated or impaired where you are unable to care for your own safety.
  • Be watchful of any illicit substance the person may attempt to get you to ingest by surreptitious means.
  • If you perceive the person is not the person you want to continue this date with, have an exit strategy. This is easy to do if you are in a public place.  Just assertively say that you need to go and just leave.  You really don’t owe anyone any lengthy explanation as to why.  You have a right to do what you need to do to stay safe. You should have your own transportation.

If not, you should be able to contact one or more close friends who have predetermined they are on call and will respond to help should you ever need it.

  • Consider what you would do if the person has turned out to be a total “whack job” that could cause you harm in the immediate and in the future. If the person knows where you reside, determine if you might need a Temporary Restraining order to legally keep the person away from you, your home or your work.
  • For any and all restraining orders or orders for protection, if the suspect is not afraid of being taken to jail and has a high probability of violating the TPO/TRO, be prepared to protect yourself.
  • Consider what you would do should the person presents a weapon and want to force you against your will to go with him/her to a different location. Most offenders of this type will use the weapon more as a threat in order to get their victim to comply and leave the area. Most offenders will not use the weapon to harm the victim, but use it only to threaten the victim to leave. Do not leave! If you leave the area your chance someone actively intervening to help you will be greatly diminished.
  • Never agree to be forced to go anywhere against your will with any suspect, regardless of if the suspect is armed with a weapon. The suspect’s intentions are not to take you to a well populated place for a leisure and safe encounter. Therefore, if the suspect is attempting by force to abduct you or to commit a violent crime against you, you must actively resist and use the force necessary to save your life, by whatever means necessary!

If you are in the dating environment, it is my hope that you will meet a great person and have a long-lasting relationship. Just know that violent suspects can and will resort to any and all violent activities to further their own selfish interests. Remember that safe dating is possible, but it is up to you to be prepared and to keep yourself safe.

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Joseph B. Walker
Retired Law Enforcement officer and owner of Leading Edge Threat Mitigation, Joseph B. Walker provides real world tactical and technical information on how to mitigate any number of threats from Active Shooter Defense, Protection against Stalkers, and Self Defense courses for Civilian and Law Enforcement personnel. Joey utilizes his expertise as a 9th Degree Black Belt in the Martial Arts with two World Karate Champions to formulate techniques that practical, easy and effective against violent assailants. Joey is also the author of two books: “Self- Defense Tactics and Techniques” and his most recently released book “Shots Fired” Surviving an Active Shooter/Assailant.