A first date is new and exciting. But it can also be scary — and we’re not just talking about pre-date jitters.
Let These Startling Statistics Soak in for a Moment:
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. Americans ranging in age from 12 to 34 years old are at the highest risk for rape and sexual assault. While 55 percent of sexual assaults occur at or near home, 25 percent occur in an open public place or in an enclosed but public area, such as a parking lot or garage. Research shows that up to three out of four attackers had been drinking alcohol when they sexually assaulted someone.
The dating scene is the ideal setting for these types of attacks to occur. As millions of Americans utilize online dating apps like Tinder (7.86 million users in 2019) and Bumble (5.03 million users in 2019), the likelihood of meeting a stranger for a first date is on the rise … as is the probability of sexual assault or rape. Perpetrators can use online dating to their advantage. One way to avoid becoming a victim is by practicing sound judgment and situational awareness before and during a first date.
We’ve compiled a list of safety guidelines to follow while dating. You may already be practicing some of these tips, but there are likely at least one or two you haven’t considered yet. Use this list as a refresher each time you go out and share the tips with friends and family members. It might save you or someone you know from becoming a victim.
Before the Date
- Do your research. Try Googling your date’s name. You don’t have to become a private investigator, but try to find photos and additional background information. This is a good way to detect any red flags.
- Provide information to family members before you go out (location, time, who you are meeting, estimated time you should return, etc.).
- Consider a double date or meeting in a group for the first outing. There’s strength in numbers.
- Take your own vehicle or find your own ride. Don’t rely on a stranger to pick you up or drop you off.
- Contemplate talking over the phone or doing a video chat — via FaceTime, Google Hangouts or Skype — to better get to know your date before meeting. This is another way to identify any warning signs.
- Meet in a public place (not alone or in private) with plenty of people around — perhaps a coffee shop or a restaurant.
- Choose a location with which you are familiar and feel comfortable in. Don’t go to an area you’ve never been to.
- Do not accept drinks from strangers and never let your beverages go unattended. Rohypnol (roofies) — which looks like aspirin and is colorless and flavorless — and GHB — a clear liquid or a white, grainy powder — are two popular date-rape drugs that are used as sedatives by perpetrators.
- Drink in moderation. Don’t consume alcohol to the point that it negatively impacts your judgment or ability to protect yourself if you’re threatened.
- Don’t leave alone with your date, even if you plan to go to a romantic spot to watch the sunset or walk along the beach. Stick with the original plan.
- Follow your gut. If you feel uncomfortable at any time during the date, remove yourself from the situation.
If you find yourself in a threatening situation, it is critical to be able to defend yourself. As an added precaution, consider enrolling in a self-defense class or course to know how to protect yourself if needed.
Following these guidelines won’t guarantee that you won’t become a sexual assault or rape victim, but they will certainly reduce the odds that it could happen to you on a first date. Strive to be a safe dater in the age of dating apps and online dating. Make it a mission to use sound judgment and exercise situational awareness. The key to dating is to have fun and find enjoyment in meeting someone new. But this should never come at the expense of your safety.