It's tricky. How do you know if someone is who they say they are? The answer is that you can’t. So much can be fabricated; entire identities can be crafted from scratch and used maliciously. Online anonymity is perfect for creeps. Overall, it just boils down to what you decide and the precautions you choose to take. I’ve compiled a list of four tips that, in my opinion, should be considered first.
1. Let at least one person know where you’re going. Give them the full name of the person you are meeting, the exact location, what time you’ll be going, and what time you’re expecting to be back. It may even be to your advantage to tell a group of people where you’ll be. The point is that if you tell at least one person, you’re already taking a step to ensure your safety. If the person you’re meeting up doesn’t give you an exact location, don’t go. This leads me to my next point:
2. Choose your meetup location wisely. Not your house/dorm, and certainly not his house/dorm. I’d recommend you go somewhere public such as a mall or a restaurant or even a movie. Don’t meet up anywhere deserted or after-hours. This applies to anywhere, really. Make sure you have some way of getting home by yourself as well, whether that be your own car, catching a ride with a family member or a friend, or taking an Uber. It’s not smart to allow someone you haven’t talked to outside of texting to drive you anywhere. If you choose to meet at a bar, we all know the old warning of not leaving your drink alone; if you do, get a new one with your own money and don’t let your date buy you another one or handle it.
3. Have a backup plan. Organize this with someone you trust, such as a family member or a friend. Having a codeword is strongly encouraged. I personally do this with my mother and sister; at any point during a date, I can always phone and ask about some peanut butter cups they may want me to pick up on the way home, which is my codeword that I’m in trouble. That codeword also helped save my friend from her own date-gone-wrong. So, establish your Plan B. If you can, excuse yourself to the washroom and call up the individual selected as your go-to. This person must agree to keep their phone on and monitor it the whole time you are gone. If, for some reason, they do not pick up, leave a message and explain your situation. Tell them where you are and everything that has set off the red flags. Even if it’s just a look or gut feeling, it’s valid. If the situation is extreme, alert people in the bathroom of the possible danger you’re in. The more people who are aware, the more chances you’ll have of being helped. In a very worst-case scenario, alert the police. Under no circumstances should you leave the bathroom. Lock yourself in a stall if necessary. Throw a fit or a fuss if you feel threatened and cannot get away from the individual. Scream, yell, run. In a public place, these motions will get people staring at you, and the last thing a predator will want is public attention. A bonus to this is that it gets security called in right away, and this further increases your chances of escaping a bad situation.
4. Invest in backup materials. Pepper spray, bear spray, and any sort of concealed weapon are illegal here in the city. My mother found this out and, concerned for my safety, got me a little something before I left for school: an alarm box. When the pin is pulled on this box, it releases a shrill and constant shriek. To make it stop, you simply push the pin back into the hole. It also comes with a wrist tie and a clip in order to make it easy to carry around. Concordia has actually arranged a “Flip the Script” course for those of us who identify as women; this started up on October 6th. More information on that is available with the CSA. I’ve signed up as it doesn’t hurt to know an extra thing or two.
I tried to keep these tips short and sweet, but hopefully they contain some information to keep you from ending up on an episode of a crime show. To conclude, I want to assure you that for every creeper out there, you will have a genuine individual, so don’t be paranoid about going out and have fun. I just want you all to be smart and safe about it.