Sex and the Cigar: the expert opinion

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 Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Advocacy Service, here’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 it’s actually someone genuine that you want to continue talking to.

You should know what you’re comfortable with, Thompson said. Figure out if you’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.

“There’s a difference between going beyond your comfort zone and trying something new. Don’t make a dumb decision because you might be a little horny,” 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.

“Say you’re tired and need coffee, especially if you’re just looking to hook up and need energy for sex. If not, it’s a cheap first date for long term dating,” Thompson said.

At the same time, you should make sure someone knows where you are just in case. If you’re going somewhere that there won’t be a lot of people, like someone’s house for the first time, Thompson says to text your friend.

“You can also take a picture of the person’s license plate. But if you feel like you need to take that picture, it might be a sign that you shouldn’t be going on a date with that person,” Thompson said. “But, some people need more safety precautions than others, and that’s completely valid.”

Finally, Thompson said it’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 you’d like further tips on dating safety, or you want to get involved as a peer mentor, visit the Women’s Center on 22 Upper College Rd, or email Rachel Dunham at rachel_dunham@my.uri.edu.

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Emma Gauthier

Emma is a senior journalism and English double major with a minor in political science from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She has worked for the Cigar since her first semester at URI as a staff reporter, then web editor, news editor and finally Editor in Chief. Emma also edits for the URI research magazine, Momentum, and hopes to find a career in political reporting upon her graduation in May.