Safe dating starts with being prepared

Millions of Americans are victims of dating violence each year. Follow these tips to protect yourself.

dating safety webWhat do you know about your date?When getting ready for a date — particularly in today’s world of online dating and dating apps —  consider your personal safety, experts say. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 37 percent of women and 31 percent of men in the United States experienced sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

Patricia M. Speck, DNSc, a professor and board-certified family nurse practitioner who specializes in forensic nursing and sexual violence at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, and Mandy Parente, M.Ed., CHES® interpersonal violence prevention coordinator at UAB, share important safety tips.  

Share your activity information with a friend or family member

Before a date, especially if you are meeting someone in person for the first time, tell a friend or relative where you are going and who you are meeting, and provide the other person’s contact information. It is also a good idea to give them a post-date check-in time so they know you are safe. Providing this information will make it easier for authorities to find you or your date if something were to happen. 

pat speck 2017Patricia M. Speck, DNScMeet in a public place

Choose places you are familiar with and where you know other people will be nearby, like coffee shops and restaurants. Avoid dark, secluded locations, and do not meet at a place where you will be alone or confined. Also, never meet at one of your homes.

Watch your alcohol (literally)

To be certain you don’t fall victim to being drugged, never leave your food or drinks unattended. “It’s best to be overly cautious when it comes to protecting your drink,” Speck said. “You shouldn’t leave your drink alone with your date.”

Alcohol impairs judgment, which is something you will need when getting to know someone new. Drinking too much could cause you to be vulnerable, make poor decisions and lose control of the situation, and that could result in someone’s taking advantage of you. “Simply drinking too much is the biggest risk,” Parente said. “Especially with college students, there is often pressure to continue drinking. Usually alcohol itself is the most dangerous date rape drug.”  

Be prepared to leave

Always be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice if you feel uncomfortable. Make sure you have your cellphone to call someone for help, and have money in case you need a cab to get home.

“We are conditioned to be nice,” Speck said. “But listen to your instincts. Even if you become amorous initially, if it becomes uncomfortable, say ‘STOP, I don’t want to do this anymore.’ Then leave.”

Know the warning signs

Warning signs are often not visible on a first date. Abusers are often charming, careful and cunning, and may seem normal at first. But as a relationship begins, look for common warning signs of dating abuse.

These include:

  • The desire to separate you from your friends and family
  • Possessiveness of you and your time
  • If there is not a change in behavior after an apology is given in a fight

Followed by:

  • Physical pushing or pulling to emphasize what they want
  • Telling you what to do

Ultimately results in:

  • Taking away your things
  • Destroying your belongings
  • Explosive temper
  • Threats about hurting you, your family or your animals

“These behaviors may foreshadow future escalating physical dating violence and are gender-neutral,” Speck said. “Pay attention to these behavior signals in your partner so you can protect yourself, and escape if you are in a violent relationship now.”

For more information about how to stay safe on dates, visit the Safe Dating Tips page on the UAB Police website. Students who experience dating or sexual violence and would like to make a report or need resources can contact the university’s Title IX office.