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How to Stay Safe on Dates this Valentine's Day



It is no secret that in today's world, online dating apps are one of the most common ways people meet their significant others. Online dating apps allow individuals to chat with someone and see if they are interested in meeting for a date, prior to ever meeting in person. Many people have found love, but for every happily ever after, there is always an online dating horror story. Here are several ways to ensure you are staying safe on dates!


1. Meet in public

Bonus points if you can meet during the day. Great first-date ideas aside from meeting at a restaurant include visiting a museum or aquarium, seeing local live music, going to a local downtown area or shopping center, or going sightseeing in your own city (since few of us are ever able to be tourists in our own cities and towns). These are all places that allow for conversation and getting to know your date but also require little to no money. Not only this, but these should all be places that are safe and allow you to get to know your date.


2. Tell a friend

Let at least one trustworthy friend know where you're going and who you're meeting, as well as your date's first and last name if possible. Nowadays, it is even possible to share your location with someone for a few hours, till the end of the day, or until you stop sharing it with them. Letting at least one safe person know your location can help keep you safe, just by allowing them to keep an eye out for you in case you don't come home.


3. Create a code word or phrase

Creating a code word, phrase, or emoji, can alert your safe person that you need help getting out of your current situation without alerting the person you are with. Whether it's because you feel unsafe or that leftover shrimp you ate last night is coming back to haunt you, it can always be useful to have a friend know to call you with an "emergency". This can be used in both in-person and over-the-phone forms of communication. For example, if the keyword is pistachio, you can slip into a conversation (if your safe person is physically present) and say something like "did you know my sister is allergic to pistachios?". This way, your safe person/people are alerted that they need to create a reason as to why you need to leave the social setting you are in. If your safe person is not with you, you can simply text them the code word or the code emoji. Your safe person would then know to call you with an emergency that requires you to leave. An example emergency would include your safe person's "boyfriend" cheating on them and they are in need of their friend (you) to come over with wine, ice cream, and all the emotional support.

While this may seem extreme or over the top, I have personally used it on several occasions with my friends and they have been able to get me out of uncomfortable situations and vice versus. As someone with a sensitive stomach, it also comes in handy when something I ate doesn't quite agree with me and I need to get home and get into some comfy clothes without my date being aware of the flips my stomach is doing on our date.


4. Have your own transportation

While it is common to have your date pick you up or vice versus, it is often not the safest option. If your date requested to pick you up, they would not only know where you live, but it restricts you from being able to make a quick exit should you need to. Be sure to have your own vehicle, money for a cab, or a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft already downloaded and your account set up on your phone. If your date is insistent on picking you up, I would tell them that I'll be coming from a doctor's appointment, my parent's house, work, or some other place that is anywhere BUT my home. That way I "need to drive anyways", it would "save time/money", or some other excuse.


5. Avoid alcohol and drugs, and stay sober

Being intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs impairs your judgment and your ability to get out of unsafe situations. Not only this, but it makes you more susceptible to robbery or assault. There is always a risk of someone slipping something into your drink regardless if it has alcohol in it or not. However, it can be harder to identify any unknown substance in alcoholic beverages as opposed to sticking with water or something you would be able to identify if it tasted differently such as Sprite. While you cannot always taste, smell, or see the various date rape drugs, this is an extra precaution that may prevent a bad situation from escalating.


6. Keep an eye out for security

It is never a bad idea to look for security, or lack thereof, that a bar, restaurant, museum, etc., has on-site. If there is no marked security personnel such as security guards or bouncers, look for bartenders, wait staff, clerks, tour guides, or any other employee that would be able to help you if you needed to get out of the situation you are in.


7. Do your research ahead of time

While this is something most of us do, it certainly comes in handy to ensure your safety on a date. Look them up on the internet! Check Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and any other social media platforms you have. There are a couple of red and green flags to look out for. The biggest red flag would be if you find out they are not who they say they are. Does the person in the dating profile look like the person you found on social media? Are you unable to find any of their social media pages? Do they have an obviously fake account? These could all be signs that this person is a catfish. A catfish is someone who uses someone else's pictures on their social media pages and/or dating apps and pretends to be the person in the photos, hiding their real identity. One red flag to look out for would be if your date doesn't have any social media pages. While there are people who truly do not have any social media, it can be an indicator that they are not who they say they are.

A green flag would be if you find their account/s and they have pictures that confirm they are who they say they are (it's the same person on the social media as well as in their dating profile), and if they are tagged in a couple of posts. Again, while these cannot be applied universally across the board, they can be helpful in determining your future safety. When it comes to looking your date up on social media, it's best to use your judgment, ask a friend for their opinion, and trust your gut.


Summary

Again, while some of these tips may work for you and some may not, choose what works best for you and what will make you feel the safest. What works for some, might not work for others. The important takeaway is that there are a number of things that you can do to ensure your safety while going on dates, it is also important to use your judgment and make the best call for yourself.


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