Dating Safety Review Notes

THANK YOU Shameless Grounds for hosting our event!

This talk was about physical, emotional, and financial safety in the realm of dating.

Kendra Holliday facilitated. Carla was on hand to speak of her date rape experiences. Therapist Paula LaFond from Women’s Resource Center at YWCA offered her professional experience.

Trauma can elicit several reactions: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or even Freak out (see my “Being Resilient” post on this).

Before we dig in, let’s preface by saying more people are targeted for abuse by people they know than by strangers, and that most people are good people seeking the same things you are – connection and intimacy. We live in a fear-based culture. These tips are not meant to scare you, but offer food for thought moving forward.

Let’s go over basic safety:

When online dating, be aware of scams. Watch out for sparse profiles or requests for financial help.

When meeting in real life, be cautious about giving your real phone number or email address. Create an email address you use solely for dating, and consider getting a Google Voice number. Don’t give out your address.

Have a trusted friend or support system in place. Let someone know your plans, leave contact info somewhere.

Apps to check out: Life360, Mr Number, Trusted Contacts by Google.

An example: before a first date, a woman calls her friend and tells her all the details: where she is, what the guy’s name and looks are, where they expect to go, when she expects to get back home. She does all that in front of the guy.

Meet in a public place where there are other people around.

One time I had a blind date with a guy and we went hiking in the woods. As soon as we got into the woods, I thought um what was I thinking??

Take your time, don’t rush into a relationship. Don’t overshare with someone you just met.

Tips from friends:

“Meet at an Asian restaurant. They serve food so quickly that if you don’t like the person you could eat and leave within 20-30 min.”

“Take a selfie with him and share it on Facebook. If he declines to be photographed, he’s either cheating or worse.”

“Be aware of your surroundings. Know your limits. Keep an eye on your drink.”

“Be prepared. Bring condom + lube. Bring your own money and have your own transport. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t laugh it off. Say so. If it doesn’t stop, leave.”

But here’s the thing: full disclosure – I don’t follow the above basic safety rules 100%.

My top two pieces of advice are:

  1. Create your own rules and guidelines so that your boundaries are firm. Communicate them.
  2. Trust your gut.

I always recommend the book The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker.

In it, he outlines PINS (Pre-Incident Indicators). From Wikipedia:
– Forced Teaming. This is when a person implies that they have something in common with their chosen victim, acting as if they have a shared predicament when that isn’t really true. Speaking in “we” terms is a mark of this, i.e. “We don’t need to talk outside… Let’s go in.”
– Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a chosen victim in order to manipulate him or her by disarming their mistrust.
– Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.
– Typecasting. An insult is used to get a chosen victim who would otherwise ignore one to engage in conversation to counteract the insult. For example: “Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me.” The tendency is for the chosen victim to want to prove the insult untrue.
– Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating they’ll feel obliged to extend some reciprocal openness in return.
– The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.
– Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.

It’s a separate topic, but we’d be remiss not to mention consent in this topic. Building Consent Culture by Kitty Stryker is a good book to check out. You can buy the book here.

Don’t look for just “yes”, but an “Enthusiastic YES”. Recognize that for a variety of reasons some women are unable to utter NO at a critical time. Because of this, any yes that seems less than strong and enthusiastic should be considered by men to be a NO unless much more checking and verifying occur. Any pull away, pull back, even if not accompanied by a verbal no, is a NO. Men must train themselves to be very aware of such non-verbal cues and body language.

Warning signs of an emotional abuser:
Need for control
Do they make you feel confused? Do they like to bicker/provoke/passive aggressive comments
Inconsistent behavior
Bad at rejection, boundaries, entitlement
Observe how they treat others – cats, panhandlers, etc
Cross check their behavior with a trusted objective friend

Read The Signs of an Emotional Predator article, as well as this one on terms and phrases you need to know if you think you’re being manipulated.

David Wraith pointed out, “The conversation about dating safety should always be descriptive rather than prescriptive. We all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion have to make daily choices between freedom and safety. However, the more marginalized groups you are a member of, the more frequent and complex these choices are. So, for a white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian male, these choices are way fewer and way simpler than for a Muslim transwoman of color. No one has the right to judge what someone else did or did not do for their own safety because we have no idea how many times this person erred on the side of safety versus how many times they erred on the side of freedom. Judging an assault survivor for choosing to exercise their freedom is as regressive as judging them based on what they were wearing or how much they’d had to drink.”

Closing thoughts from Paula LaFond – practice self-love. It will keep your priorities straight and prevent you from settling for less than you deserve. Instead of being your own worst enemy, be your own best friend and champion!

Local St Louis resources:

YWCA Women’s Resource Center (the name is outdated – men are welcome to contact them as well)

Safe Connections

BONUS MATERIAL: A member asked about approaching people you don’t know in public. Here is a post about that.