More and more people are turning to online dating sites in search of romantic partners, but with the opportunities that technology provides for people to connect, it also brings potential danger.

There is no shortage of stories of bad dates gone wrong, but women in particular are increasingly at risk for sexual assault and other violent crime.

If you or someone you know is considering online dating, there are steps you can take to help increase your safety and reduce the chances you will meet someone very different than you were expecting.

Safety tips

I’ve decided to try online dating:

  • provide as little personal information as possible on your profile
  • choose a profile photo that you haven’t used anywhere else online – it prevents someone from doing a google image search and finding out other information about you
  • create a separate email address just for your account and for corresponding with potential dates

I’ve found a profile of someone I might be interested in:

  • take a screenshot of their profile picture and save it to your desktop – do a Google image search
  • if possible, use a separate phone number for any phone conversations, or make the calls from a blocked number
  • Google search the name they have given you

It’s time for a first date:

  • arrange to meet in a public place away from where you live
  • tell a friend where you’ve gone and who you’re meeting, and give them any contact information your date has provided to you

How do I know if I can trust this person:

  • if your date has told you where they live or work, do some checking to confirm
  • consider double dating the first few times prior to spending time alone and not in public – ask to meet their friends and see how they interact with others
  • if anyone you’re dating asks you for money or to provide banking information, your alarm bells should be ringing… loudly
  • remember that just because it’s a paid site, it doesn’t mean it’s safer
  • trust your instincts – if something feels wrong, it probably is

True stories: What could possibly go wrong?

“Everything about him turned out to be false.”

“He didn’t have a condom but I trusted him.”

“When we got to my place, I felt guilty that he had come all this way, so I invited him in for tea.”

“He ripped my shorts down and his penis was inside me – it happened so fast.”

“He covered my mouth and held up his fist, threatening to hurt me and smash my face in.”

“It was my first time, and I didn’t want to do it, but I just did it.”

“I later found out I had contracted herpes.”

Read their stories below.

Experiences from the Online Dating World: What could possibly go wrong?

I met him online at the end of February. After a few short messages and phone calls, we went on our first date a few weeks later. The conversation got very personal. I told him that I had herpes and asked if there was anything he needed to tell me about, and he assured me there was nothing.

We had intercourse for the first time shortly after. He didn’t have a condom but I trusted him. It was five months later when I found some loose pills at the bottom of a bag he’d left on my living room floor. They were ARVs – for HIV positive people. When I asked him when he was going to tell me he was HIV+, he replied, “Uh, yeah, I guess we need to talk about that.” – 46-year-old woman


I met him for the first and only time on February 14th, after talking via text and phone for about three weeks. We had met on a dating site, and after we had dinner together, he insisted on walking me home – even though I said many times it wasn’t necessary.

When we got to my place, I felt guilty that he had come all this way, so I invited him in for tea. I very clearly told him that I didn’t even kiss men on the first date, let alone have sex with them. As I walked by him to get tea, he grabbed me, and carried me to my bedroom. I yelled at him to stop, as he pulled my pants down and forced his penis inside me. “I guess you didn’t enjoy the date,” he texted the next day. – 28-year-old woman


We met online on August 12th, and texted back and forth very casually. He wanted to see if we had any chemistry, so three days later we met in person. I told him I didn’t want anything to happen because I was just out of a relationship and we had just met.

We went back to his boat and he asked if I would stay a while. He locked the latch on the boat and led me to the bed, which was the only place to watch a movie. I told him I did not want to have sex, but I kissed him. He ripped my shorts down and his penis was inside me – it happened so fast. I told him to stop and that I didn’t want to have sex, but he held me down by the neck and continued to thrust inside me. This happened three times throughout the evening – I had no idea how to open the boat latch to get out. – 35-year-old woman


I was looking for an apartment to rent. When I answered an ad for a roommate and arrived at the apartment, a man answered the door wearing nothing but underwear. He said he couldn’t find his pants, so he stood behind the kitchen counter so as not to offend. We talked for a while and he showed me the bedroom, pointing out there was only one bed, but that we wouldn’t be home at the same time very often.

After assuring me I wasn’t his type, he kissed me and asked if we could have sex. I told him no repeatedly and kept pushing him away, but he continued kissing me. He told me he wasn’t going to listen to me and I knew I was in trouble, so I screamed loudly and tried to kick him. He covered my mouth and held up his fist, threatening to hurt me and smash my face in.

After forcing me to perform oral sex, he told me he was just trying to teach me a lesson to open my boundaries. I freaked out and left. – 22-year-old woman


We just started chatting online and then decided we should meet. He picked me up and we went to his apartment to hang out and get sushi. We were sitting on the couch, when he put his arm around me and kissed me. He took my clothes off and had sex with me. It was my first time, and I didn’t want to do it, but I just did it.

After, we just hung out for a few minutes before he drove me home. I went back there three more times before my mom found out. I was only 15 and he was 27.- 15-year-old woman


Everything about him turned out to be false. After texting with him for over two weeks, and talking on the phone, we agreed to meet. I wanted to go out somewhere, but he insisted on coming to my place. After I went to the bathroom, I came back and finished my wine.

I have virtually no recollection of the rest of the night. In the morning, I saw my clothes on the sofa in the living room, and I have no idea how I got from the living room to my bedroom. I had not had sex for a year, and I could feel that something had definitely happened. There was blood on a towel, and it was wet, and there were two used condoms in the wastebasket. – 46-year-old woman


I met him on the site “Seeking Arrangement.” On our third date, I agreed to sex — as long as he wore a condom. I saw that he was wearing a condom when he initially penetrated me, but I noticed he had removed it when he pulled out, and that we had been having unprotected intercourse. I confronted him and left immediately.

I went to the clinic the following day to get tested for STDs. I later found out I had contracted herpes. – 23-year-old woman

What do I do if I am a victim of sex assault or assault?

  1. Get to a safe place
  2. Call 9-1-1
  3. Do not shower, wash clothing, hands or face

What do I do if I am a victim of fraud?

  1. Call 9-1-1
  2. Inform banks and Equifax if you feel your personal information has been compromised