A recent deluge of articles spotlighted British women suffering abuse from their online dates. Is this only a UK thing?
First, it isn’t just a United Kingdom thing. It also isn’t a woman thing either. Plenty of guys have been harassed, even threatened by their dates. The aggressive woman will use the threat of spreading rumors, stalking, or even resort to physical abuse, relying on the man not to retaliate. A man might never confess to being harassed by his date, afraid how it makes him look.
Why is this happening in the first place? There is a relaxation of societal boundaries of good behavior. Add to that a sense of entitlement. The abusive date wants what he wants. He has resorted to online dating since he has exhausted his supply of local women.
Most people believe dating sites do a criminal background check on their clients. The only check they do is on the client’s credit card. A person can call and makeup a name and history. That’s why so many married men pass themselves off as single. eHarmony does offer to verify your name, age, marital status and occupation. The company will confirm the man’s identity as a forty-two year old medic with the fire department. What isn’t confirmed is his tendency to call ten times a day to track his date’s movement after only one encounter.
The only way to know if a man or woman has been abusive is if previous dates report to the company. Of course, this relies heavily on what you consider abusive. One woman feels victimized after a date when the man does not make a second date. A man who failed to make the follow-up date finds his driveway blocked by the angry woman who threatens to ruin his bid for a second term in office. Abusive or scary dates have to be reported to the agency. Most people don’t do this. They consider it experience and move on. Some are afraid of angering the abusive date into retaliation mode.
The agency can do several different things. If you are on a free dating site, they’ll most likely do nothing. Most will block the reported individual from contacting you. Others such as eHarmony will ban the reported individual from the service, then notify anyone he had been in contact with that he is no longer in the service and to beware.
Two things can result from this ban. He can join different services. He can join the same service with a different email address. The verification service is something the member pays for to relax potential dates. A banned person will not use this service.
On the flip side, a vengeful date can notify the company that the man who chose not to take her out again was stalker-ish and abusive. The man gets his membership cancelled and notes sent out to all his possible dates to break off contact with him. Yes, this could happen. More likely, the company doesn’t allow the two individuals to see each other’s’ profiles. They send a note to the member who filed the complaint that the matter is resolved.
Why should one’s person opinion carry more weight than any other person? By banning a member, they not only lose that person’s money, but anyone who listened to his complaints about the dating site. With all this in mind, how do you protect yourself from a possible abusive date?
1. Be careful with your profile. Do not state your employer, or even your real name. Most people go with a nickname or a middle name. (I demonstrated to my sweetie that by only knowing his name, I easily found his home address, age, relatives, neighbors’ contact information, even a handy map to the house. For a few dollars, I could bring up his credit record and criminal background check and the value of his home.)
2. Note any red flags in the profile. You do not have to respond to anyone you don’t feel okay about.
3. Have a date-only email for feeling out potential dates.
4. Never friend a possible date on Facebook before the first five dates stage. (This allows your date access to the intimate details of your life. The better to stalk you later.)
5. Meet in public places.
6. Drive separately for the first three dates. Most people can contain their inner demons for the first three dates, although you might see glimpses.
7. Do not ignore warning signs.
8. Be stingy with information at the get to know you stage. Don’t say where you work or even where you live. (A match.com date gave out her address information on the first date, only to discover she didn’t want to see him again. That didn’t stop him from waiting at her house every day.)
9. Don’t expect a company to do the investigative work for you. Men met through Christian Mingle attacked several female members. The women assumed wrongly that men belonging to the group would be above reproach.
10. Have a person to check in with when you go out with new dates.
11. Leave when you feel unsafe. Don’t worry about an explanation because there won’t be any future dates.
12. Do not discount friends’ impressions either. If your friend thinks your date is creepy, ask why.
13. In the end, any man or woman worth having will understand your natural caution.
14. You can meet wonderful people online, but weeding out the undesirables is your job. Remember the most charming dates are usually the ones you’ll be hiding from in three to five dates. They’ve had plenty of practice being smooth to lull women or men into a false sense of security before they take off the mask.
15. Trust your instinct. Sometimes logic fails.
Before complaining that everyone online is a stalker, keep in mind any of these safety tips would work well for non-online dates too. Allow the relationship to develop naturally. Pay attention to who your date is as opposed to who you want him to be.