In this age of Tinder and Grindr, it’s easy to meet people online. For many people, these sites are a great way to match with attractive people locally. For others, they’re a gateway to sexual assault and date rape.
I’m sure your parents taught you “stranger danger” as a kid. Not to take candy from old men in white vans, etc. But with Tinder and Grindr, which are connected to Facebook profiles, show mutual friends and are only accessible if both people choose to “match,” the line between friend and foe is blurred. It’s all too easy to trust someone when you can see that they go to your college, work in your town, have matched with your friends. Remember- even if they may not be your stereotypical creep, strangers can still be dangerous.
So instead of telling you what your parents did (to avoid all strangers,) I’m sharing tips on how to be self-aware and stay safe if you end up on a date with someone you met online who is essentially a stranger.
You’re at a bar with your date. He/she offers to get you a drink. What do you ask for?
Beer! Not only is it delicious, but you can order it in a can or bottle. Go with your date to get the drinks, and ask the bartender to keep your beer in its bottle or can. Watch as your drink is opened. Don’t let anyone else hold your drink. Pretend your beer is a life-preserver and you’re stranded in the ocean– just don’t let it go. Slipping drugs into someone’s drink is frighteningly easy once you let go of it.
There are no rules against taking drinks into the bathroom, so why not? If you’d prefer, you can ask the bartender to watch your drink while you use the restroom. Any half-decent bartender will understand and keep an eye out for you.
Another point on drinking- don’t get drunk on a date with a stranger. Even if things are going great and you feel safe, it’s not a good idea to lose awareness of your surroundings without someone keeping an eye out for you. Have a drink or two, then stick to water.
If something goes wrong
Here’s what to look for if you think you’ve been drugged:
-You feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol — or, you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual.
-You wake up feeling very hung over and disoriented or having no memory of a period of time.
-You remember having a drink, but cannot recall anything after that.
-You find that your clothes are torn or not on right.
-You feel like you had sex, but you cannot remember it.
If any of these sound familiar, here’s what to do:
- Get medical care right away. Call 911 or have a trusted friend take you to a hospital emergency room. Don’t urinate, douche, bathe, brush your teeth, wash your hands, change clothes, or eat or drink before you go. These things may give evidence of the rape. The hospital will use a “rape kit” to collect evidence.
- Call the police from the hospital. Tell the police exactly what you remember. Be honest about all your activities. Remember, nothing you did — including drinking alcohol or doing drugs — can justify rape.
- Ask the hospital to take a urine (pee) sample that can be used to test for date rape drugs. The drugs leave your system quickly. Rohypnol stays in the body for several hours, and can be detected in the urine up to 72 hours after taking it. GHB leaves the body in 12 hours. Don’t urinate before going to the hospital.
- Don’t pick up or clean up where you think the assault might have occurred. There could be evidence left behind — such as on a drinking glass or bed sheets.
- Get counseling and treatment. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. A counselor can help you work through these emotions and begin the healing process. Calling a crisis center or a hotline is a good place to start. One national hotline is the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.
If your date isn’t at a restaurant or bar, the tips are slightly different. While bars and restaurants are easy places to get roofied, they have one major benefit: they’re public. And when you’re meeting someone for the first time, you want public.
It sounds sweet to be invited on a romantic hike, or to someone’s house for a home-cooked meal– but don’t accept these offers. At least not the first time you meet someone. Solitary alone time is great when you trust your partner, but on a first date with a rando? Not smart! If your date seems against any public time together (not just bars/restaurants, but concerts, coffee shops, museums, movies, etc.) that’s your cue to run.
In all likelihood, your online crush could be a normal person. (If you’re lucky, he or she might be a savvy survivalist like you!) But at Self-Reliance Central, we prepare for the worst. Keep your wits about you and stay safe.