Looking forward to a first date with someone you’ve only met online?
Websites and dating apps have changed the way that singles seek romance, and more people than ever are happily meeting new partners and finding love via the internet. There are reportedly more than 1,400 sites and apps in the UK alone.
Yet, if you ask people if they would meet a stranger for a night out, or invite a stranger into their home, they’d probably say absolutely not.
Meeting and chatting with someone online, sharing intimate feelings and hopes can make you believe you know someone well, and that possibly they understand you.
All of this can happen in a very compressed period of time, which can foster a false sense of security before you meet in person.
Every year, hundreds of incidents are reported to police by both men and women, where that first date hasn’t gone as hoped, or where the person you meet isn’t who you thought they would be.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, how can you ensure that your first date is safe and enjoyable? We’ve compiled some safety tips for that all important first meeting with someone new.
1. Meet in a public place
Arrange to meet in a place where there are plenty of other people around. It doesn’t have to be in the evening in a pub or bar. Why not suggest a daytime date in a coffee shop or café? Make sure it’s somewhere you feel comfortable.
2. Make your own travel plans
Even if your date offers to pick you up at your house or workplace, it’s not a good idea to allow a stranger to know where you live or work this early on in a relationship.
Arrange your own transport. Att the end of the date, especially if it’s not going well, you aren't relying on them as your only means of getting home.
3. Keep your eye on your drinks
Make sure you’re in control of your alcohol intake and that your glass is in your sight at all times. If you suspect your drink has been spiked, seek help immediately.
4. Have a backup buddy
Make sure that someone you trust knows where you are. Arrange to check in with them during the date, whether by text message or phone call.
Consider discreetly telling a staff member at your date venue, such as a bar or waiting staff, that you're on a first date, just in case you require assistance.
5. Keep it mobile
Until you’re sure of someone, only give out your mobile number rather than your home or work phone numbers.
Reverse directories compile your home number and personal information from telephone listings for anyone willing to search, whereas most mobile service providers keep this information private. Also, you can more easily block an unwanted number on a mobile phone.
6. Don’t give them your life story in one go
When getting to know someone, keep things light and fun until you know them better.
Romance fraudsters can often exploit knowledge of personal details and situations for their own sexually or financially motivated advantage.
7. Gut reaction
If something doesn't feel right, don't question it. It is much better to cut the date short than try to see it through.
Should your intuition tell you something is wrong, politely say that you have to go because, for example, you aren't feeling well, and then make your apology and leave.
8. Be safe at home
Don’t invite anyone back to your home, until you’re absolutely sure of them and ready to take that step. Even if nothing untoward happens and you simply don't want a second date, they’ll know where you live. Don’t go back theirs either.
9. Check them out beforehand
Social media is a great way to check someone out before you meet in real life. Use a reverse image online search tool to make sure their profile image is genuine.
If you are raped or sexually assaulted on a date, help is at available. No matter what the circumstances, sexual activity against your will is a crime. We are here to help and support you.
Here's some information about consent
Victims can report their experience to us by using our online reporting toolor by calling 101.
Our partner agencies can also provide help and assistance. Bedfordshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), the Emerald Centre, offers a safe, non-judgmental, caring and sensitive service or the Hope Programme, which provides support, counselling and coaching for victims of sexual crime in Bedfordshire.
Remember, always call 999 in an emergency.
Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Dadd