Yes, dating can be a total nightmare when you get hooked up with someone who is rude, obnoxious, or just not your type — but it can be a real nightmare if you don’t take proper safety precautions and end up in a position where you an be assaulted or even murdered.
You may be going out on a date with someone you’ve been chatting up on line for months, or even someone you’ve been setup with by a mutual acquaintance — but the truth of the matter is you’re making you’re self extremely vulnerable to a stranger. And modern dating is making us even more vulnerable than ever: A 2016 study in the UK reported that reports of rape linked to online dating increased 450 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to Vice News.
Everyone takes some risks when it comes to finding love, but you should never take risks that will put you in physical danger. Follow these rules of thumb when you are getting to know someone new.
1. Keep your loved ones in the loop
Always let roommates, friends and family members know when you plan to go out on a date. Give all the proper information about where you are going, who you’re going with (including your date’s name and phone number) and when you expect to be home. If anything changes regarding your whereabouts during the course of the evening, let them know right away.
It may sound a little overboard, but if no one knows you’re out, they won’t know they should be worried if something should go wrong. Remember 127 Hours? It’s kinda the same idea. If James Franco’s character had just let someone know he was going out hiking, they would have known to look for him a whole lot sooner.
2. Provide your own transportation
Match.com suggests providing your own transport when you’re meeting up with someone you don’t know very well, and it’s a life-saving idea.
Uber it or drive your own car and not only will you have a quick getaway if things get weird, but you’re also keeping your home address hidden from your date.
3. Meet in a safe environment
Netflix and chill is fun and all, but don’t ever invite someone you hardly know over to your house, or go over to theirs.
“Meet in a public place at a time with many people around,” Kimberly Cheryl suggests in her book Are Your Habits Killing You? “A familiar restaurant or coffee shop, at a time where a lot of other people will be present is a fine choice.”
Not only will this decrease your chances of being put in an unsafe situation, but other people may also remember you being in that location, in the event something does happen to you.
4. Don’t leave your food or drink unattended
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and roofies (Rohypnol) — which you’ve probably heard of by now — are odorless, colorless date rape drugs that can make you disoriented or unconscious. We don’t want to believe that someone we’re on a date with will slip us any drugs, but it does happen.
Don’t accept a drink from your date unless you open it yourself or watch it being prepared by a bartender.
5. Limit alcohol consumption, period
While we’re on the topic of booze, it’s also not a great idea to drink more than one or two beverages while out with someone you don’t know very well. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes it easier for a potential predator to talk you into leaving a public place.
Sure, dating can be awkward and it’s easy to fall back on a little social lubrication to keep conversation flowing easier — but is it really worth it?
6. Don’t give out your personal info
“Guard your personal contact information on any dating or social networking site,” Says Dr. Marla W. Deibler, a psychologist at The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC. “If using an online dating website, you can choose to have the individual respond to the site, rather than your email address, or you can set up an email address specifically for this purpose.’
7. Go on a group date
If you can, go out with at least one other friend — that way, you can keep on eye on each other in case someone is slipped a date rape drug or appears to be drinking too much. It’s also a great way to get a second opinion if you are getting bad vibes from a date.
8. Carry some protection
No, we’re not talking condoms here (though having condoms with you is always a good idea). We’re talking good ol’ fashioned pepper spray.
A lot of people might think it’s over-the-top, but tucking some pepper spray or Mace in your purse when you go on a first date is a good move in case you get attacked. Better safe than sorry.
9. Don’t lie
Misrepresenting yourself over email or on a dating site might piss off your date.
“It is ill-advised to share photos or other information that is untruthful, as discovering such misrepresentation can lead to angry feelings and perhaps aggressive behavior,” Dr. Deibler says.
10. Google them!
The best defense is a good offense. If you google your date and find some questionable info or just get a bad feeling, follow your gut and cancel ASAP.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Originally published August 2010. Updated February 2017.