It seems like there’s been yet another gay date murder in Trinidad & Tobago. These dating safety guidelines, brought to you by the Trinidad & Tobago AntiViolence Project, are distilled from international groups’ and one focus group conducted locally. They aren’t perfect or complete (we’ve been trying to raise money to do so), and not all of them will make sense for everyone, but they’re a start.
Reports are going around about people in Trinidad & Tobago who have been taken advantage of by men they met online, including on popular sites like edis the no A4A. These stories involve people like us being murdered, carjacked, beaten, robbed, forced to have sex, filmed, and threatened with blackmail. Some of the attackers seem to be repeat offenders, and virtually none of the victims so far have been willing to report the crimes to the police, so many of the perpetrators are still active and on the site. Additionally, there have been reports of other serious crimes, including assault, robbery, rape and kidnapping, that happened to people outside clubs we go to.
“I don’t have a car. I travel. I met a lot of hot guys online. I largely avoid trouble through having rules that I always follow. My biggest rule is I stay my ass home and you know what when I am feeling real desperate or bazodie, because I found myself doing some really stupid things. I’m concerned about these crimes, though, and thinking about other things I can do to be safer.”
We are Anand and Harvey. One of us (we won’t say which) has been pretty successful with online hookups. One of us has been victimised. We can’t make choices for each other, or for you. But, as friends, we try to help each other make good choices, as a way of taking care of each other. Like us, you should talk about dating safety with people you care about.
“I’m not so lucky. I don’t take risks easily and I pulled out of more than one situation when the guy wasn’t flexible, or he was bigger, or he was different than he said. Still, I got robbed by a guy who was really nice and looked trustworthy enough for me to get in his car. I was afraid to walk in a police station and report it, but I did call 800-TIPS.”
Here are some tips both of us think you should consider to make things safer when you go looking for fun or fun finds you. Later, we’ll suggest some helpful steps to take if you or someone you know is victimised. Being victimised doesn’t only happen to stupid or careless people, but you will be at greater risk if you don’t take precautions.
MAKING YOUR DATING & HOOKUPS SAFER
First off, there are other ways to meet guys you want than on websites and by picking them up at the club or somewhere else. You can also decide that you are going to abstain from internet connections altogether. Or you can stay online but cut out instant hookups, which are the ones that normally carry the most risk. You could also cut back on how often you go online or pick up guys. But, many of us will still end up going online or meeting some have-to-take-home guy, and we will likely find ourselves taking some risks at times. Whenever you do so, balance them with caution.
Here are five general guidelines that can increase your safety on new encounters. Some of the precautions are quite simple and easy to do. Not all of them will make sense for everybody. But use them to come up with rules or routines of your own that you always stick to, no matter how safe a situation may seem.
1. WHEN YUH THIRSTY, SIP: Always be aware that whenever you are lonely, horny or aroused your judgement is automatically impaired. Don’t fool yourself that you are thinking cautiously. And know that when you really need to get some now-for-now is when you are most likely to do something risky. That’s when, therefore, you need to make additional effort to practice caution. Also, remember that meeting someone online, on the phone or in the dark, is not like meeting your best friend’s best friend by their house. They can fool you much more easily. Even after a few conversations, when you’ve let your guard down a bit, you still don’t know who they really are. Pictures can be fake or outdated. And most guys cheat or lie outright about stats like age, size, height, physique and their job. Lastly, be clear before any action starts about any things you will NOT do on any particular date (e.g., get screwed, do it raw). Some guys think No means “I Dare You”, though, so make that clear too.
2. TAKE IT STEP BY STEP: As a rule of thumb, consider having your first meeting with anyone new in a safe, public place. Even if you are going to hook up right away (and you don’t have to), it gives you the chance to back out if things aren’t right. And remember, getting in his car could be even less safe than going to his house. Hold off before you invite him to your place. If anything doesn’t feel right, it’s always your right to change your mind.
3. ASK QUESTIONS, NOTE ANSWERS: Ask and, where possible, make written or audio notes of details about a new person you are getting together with. Before agreeing to meet, webcam with people you meet online so you can see their face (and anything else you might be focussed on). Have them send or show you two recent face pictures before meeting. If they don’t have a picture in their profile and won’t send you one, see if they will display their picture in a Messenger window, at least temporarily. If you’re going to a house, get the street name and number, not just directions. If you’re going to get in his car, it’s reasonable to ask him the make, colour and registration beforehand. As a habit, make sure there’s a record and a picture that someone can find easily of who you went to meet and where, or who came over to your house. (Obviously, don’t leave it for your visitor to find.) If none of this works for you, because you need to keep things anonymous, just be real with yourself about how this increases your risk. Also, people tend to be cautious about sharing too much information with men they’ve just met, out of fear it might make them vulnerable. So if you want to know just who it is you are about to let into your world, and perhaps your body, you will have to ask the questions. If they lie or their answers change, maybe you shouldn’t trust them.
4. TELL SOMEBODY: Always let somebody know that you are going to meet someone you don’t know, or if you are going off somewhere with somebody. Tell a friend, tell the bartender, send a text, leave a voicemail. Leave yourself a text or voicemail. Unlike Scrunter’s 1980s schoolgirl, Carol, who could only “take de number”, you have a cellphone. Text the registration of a car or the address of a house before you enter. Casually mention to the person you are hooking up with that someone else knows that you’re meeting.
5. HAVE A CHECK-IN BUDDY: Have the person that you told someone was coming over or that you were going somewhere call you and check in to make sure you are safe. Or agree that you will call your buddy at a particular time if everything is okay. You can even have a distress codeword that only the two of you know.
BE CAREFUL IN GENERAL
Buy your own drinks and don’t leave them unattended. Or offer to go to the bar with them if somebody you don’t know well is buying the round. Leave excess cash, your ATM and credit cards and other valuables at home if you are going to meet somebody you don’t know. Do take enough vex money to get home in an emergency. Some people also believe in taking stick up money: enough cash to avoid a robber getting angry and violent. Lock valuables and money away when someone you don’t know is coming over. Shower together with your visitor, or after he leaves. And watch out for your friends. If they are drunk, don’t leave them to get home by themselves. If they are acting stupid, remind them.