Every now and then I get the urge to remind people of this hot button issue. Once in a while something bad happens and we all get over protective, then that subsides, then we all get slack and then something bad happens again. I like to make sure we stay on the alert!
Now I know for the most part this doesn't apply to this particular forum but I'm posting this (or something similar) across all the websites that I belong to, just as a reminder - particularly to women although it does affect men too - to stay safe on the 'net.
Here in West Sussex, not far from my home in fact, a young lady met a guy on the 'net. They hit it off and decided on a date. They met up in a public place, did everything right and safe until at the end of the evening the man offered her a lift home. She thought she could trust him so she accepted the offer. He drove her out to a remote area around here and she was found hours later wandering naked across the fields. I'm sure I don't need to go into the horrific details of what the poor lady suffered prior to being found. At least she was alive and only sustained minor injuries.
Please don't let this be you! Many people have found love and friendship on the internet and why not? It's a great way to meet like minded people. But please, please, please be careful when it comes to real life meetings. Always take precautions.
Firstly, arrange to meet in public in a busy area. Never be alone with the person you're meeting. If you need to call out for help then you have plenty of people arround you. Chances are an attacker would never take a risk in a busy area anyway for this exact reason.
Make sure you tell plenty of people at home and in your family where you are going and roughly what time you will be coming home. Let your date know that you have told your friends and family. Just a quick "my mum is so excited that I'm meeting you" or something like that will let them know that your family are aware of the meeting. If no one knows where you are then it may be a long time before anyone knows that something is wrong. By the time they call the police it may be too late.
Make sure your mobile phone is charged before you go out and use it at least once during the date. Text a friend to say you're having a good time etc. That way they know that you are in touch with someone who may be expecting you to contact them regularly. Again this alerts your date to the fact that if anything goes wrong your friends and family will be on to it quicker because you are keeping in touch.
Don't use your own vehicle to get to and from the date. If you must use your own car do not allow your date to see it. Predators have been known to remember car details, even licence plate numbers in order to track you down to your home.
Even if you're taking the bus to your date make sure you have enough money for a taxi home, in case you miss the last bus. Do not allow your date to take you home. You may be attacked in the car - as the lady here in Sussex was - or your date may remember your home address for later. Stalkers can be just as dangerous as an attacker, especially if they decide that looking at you isn't enough any more.
Never give out personal details like your email address or phone number. If your date is pushing you for either of these and you feel uncomfortable then end the date. Anyone who's truly interested in you and your safety will understand your reluctance to give out your info. However you contacted each other on the 'net to arrange the date is perfectly fine. If the forum or chat site can't be accessed then arrange to meet on another forum or chat site, there's plenty of them around. That way if things do take a turn for the worst you can block their contact or delete your account with no loss to your email address or phone number accounts. Someone got my mobile number by accident once and made my life hell for months before I ended up getting the police involved and had to change my number etc. No damage done but it was a huge hassle that I could have done without.
Remember, bad guys don't wear trench coats and scarves up to their eyeballs with low brimmed hats! They are ordinary, usually charming people. That's how they pull you in in the first place. If your "spidey senses" go off at any part of the date - end it!
I hope that all of you who are looking for love will find it. But in the meantime please, stay safe.
Please keep in mind that this advice applies to internet friends as well as dates. Also, please, please, please keep in mind that this is an open forum. That means that people don't even need to register to see your photographs or posts (they can't see the shoutbox until they make a certain number of posts). Which also means that if you post personal information (such as where you live, where you work or your phone number), they can also see that. It's not a smart idea to leave such information wide open to the public.
I know we're a very close knit forum and we sometimes forget that strangers can wander over our site and see these things. But they can, and they do, so please think twice before posting personal details.