How do I stay safe while online dating?
This week, I spoke to Henry Thompson, a sophomore computer science major and peer educator with PLEASE, Peers Learning Educating and a Supporting Everyone. Since his freshman year, Thompson has been educating students on issues of sexual assault and healthy habits, ways to combat stigma, and ways to intervene in unsafe social situations.
Backed by his training with the URI Womenâ€™s Center and the Violence Prevention and Advocacy Service, hereâ€™s his advice for how to stay safe while online dating.
At first, be wary of how much information you give out to someone when you initially start exchanging messages, said Thompson. Get to know the person before you give out your number and contact information to make sure that itâ€™s actually someone genuine that you want to continue talking to.
You should know what youâ€™re comfortable with, Thompson said. Figure out if youâ€™re more inclined to sleep with someone on the first date, or if you need a couple more dates to feel comfortable around them before hooking up. Understanding your comfort zone can help you make sounder decisions for yourself.
â€œThereâ€™s a difference between going beyond your comfort zone and trying something new. Donâ€™t make a dumb decision because you might be a little horny,â€ he said.
Thompson advises never meeting someone in a sketchy place for the first time, for example, parking lots in the middle of the night. He recommends somewhere public, like a coffee shop or a cafe.
â€œSay youâ€™re tired and need coffee, especially if youâ€™re just looking to hook up and need energy for sex. If not, itâ€™s a cheap first date for long term dating,â€ Thompson said.
At the same time, you should make sure someone knows where you are just in case. If youâ€™re going somewhere that there wonâ€™t be a lot of people, like someoneâ€™s house for the first time, Thompson says to text your friend.
â€œYou can also take a picture of the personâ€™s license plate. But if you feel like you need to take that picture, it might be a sign that you shouldnâ€™t be going on a date with that person,â€ Thompson said. â€œBut, some people need more safety precautions than others, and thatâ€™s completely valid.â€
Finally, Thompson said itâ€™s okay to do a bit of Facebook stalking before meeting up with your date. You can check to see if you have mutual friends, mutual interests, and to ensure their legitimacy.
If youâ€™d like further tips on dating safety, or you want to get involved as a peer mentor, visit the Womenâ€™s Center on 22 Upper College Rd, or email Rachel Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org.