Tips for dating site users: Playing it safe

Every 98 seconds, just 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. That’s about 321,500 victims who are raped and sexually assaulted every year, according to RAINN, one of America’s best known anti-sexual violence organizations.

In the past, couples often grew up in communities together, getting to know each other in long love letters. Nowadays, people are rolling the dice on Tinder, Match.com or maybe Plenty of Fish. Although those dates can turn into something special that’s not always the case.

Safety while dating online is crucial, especially since these sites allow users to play the field broadly, and getting to know the people behind the profiles is time consuming, especially since some dating apps solely focus on the picture users swipe without giving much of the biography of the person. Even if there is a fairly large biography, it may be untrue. The website Quartz says, “Dating companies are being pushed to better protect users, but some seem reluctant to do more — or even to talk about whether there’s a problem.”

In the meantime, dating app users need to protect themselves. The website Love and Harmony offers tips to userj who start to feel uncomfortable or feel like they may have encountered a predator.

Fact-check: The people described in profiles are not always who they say they are, so don’t feel bad for checking them on Google or on Facebook. You also can background check them as well. The website Been Verified charges $14.86 a month for three months for this service.

Be aware: If the person does have a Facebook account or means of authentication, look for things that seem “off” such as fake dating accounts or a Facebook account with a low friend count. Predators or impostors might not post a lot of pictures of themselves with family or friends and more than likely don’t keep on track with posting and liking pages.

Protect your Privacy: Use privacy settings on personal information (address, location, phone numbers).

Meet in Public: When a date has been made, be sure to hold it in a public place because then there will be help all around.

Meet Face to Face: Try to meet up face to face or even face time or Skype. A sexual predator might be hesitant and make excuses not to. This can be very sketchy.

Consider if it is Too Good to Be True: In the online world, anyone can be anyone. If the person that the user has been conversing with has been gloating about their luxuries such as money, a new car or a yacht, they might not be telling you the whole truth. In this case, it’s a good idea to ask questions. If they are lying, then they might get defensive or maybe stop talking completely.

Take Your Time: Don’t be so fast to fall in love. True love shouldn’t mind the wait. Falling in love with someone you just “met” can lead to disappointment or much worse.

Let Your Friends Know: It’s a good idea to let your friends know a little bit of what’s going on. Maybe your friends see something you don’t and can spot some red flags. It’s a good idea to let them know important things like where you’re going on the date, when you expect to return and the date’s name, address and phone number in case of an emergency.

Don’t Lie to Yourself: Ask questions like “Do I feel safe?” and always trust gut feelings. If someone doesn’t seem right, that may be your body going into the fight, flight and freeze mode. Always trust your gut.

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