This is not another article about online dating.
Although many articles review online dating tips and they are beneficial for those who are looking for a relationship through the World Wide Web, we also need to be able to talk about hookup/pick-up safety and in a nonjudgmental way. Let’s be clear; this is about making arrangements with someone to have sex. We’re not talking about dating sites where you hope to find that special someone for the rest of your life.
Why is it so important we talk about this? Some people are out there cruising with the intent of taking advantage of our community, and they are counting on us to feel ashamed. They suspect that their victims won’t tell anyone or report the crime to police because of this shame, and that is why we are so vulnerable. They respond to posts on popular social networking sites, show up at your home to rob and/or attack you. We know that we don’t have to tell you that people aren’t always who they seem to be online. The internet is a playground for anonymity.
It’s occurring more and more. First and foremost, if this has happened to you, DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF. It is not your fault. You do not have to report it to police. You do not have to tell your friends. But you also don’t have to go through this alone. The shame felt after being the victim on this type of crime is rough enough.
What is the difference between Guilt and Shame?
What do we mean by shame? Do you think that you shouldn’t have been looking for a little action in the first place? Or that this is what you get for cruising online? Do you resent your sexual desires/impulses? Are you afraid to tell anyone what you did last night because they may think you’re a slut? Do you think you deserve your STI because promiscuity and casual sex is wrong? Do you think your kinks are too freaky? That’s shame.
According to Rick Musquiz, LCSW, Anti-Violence Program Coordinator at Montrose Counseling Center, “The difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is the feeling we get when we have done something wrong and know it; shame is when our actions result in branding ourselves as a bad person, not good enough, not valuable, etc.”
Musquiz says that among consenting adults, there is absolutely nothing wrong with engaging in hook-ups, whether it is through the internet or by picking someone up in a bar, book store or bath house. Hook-ups — having sexual encounters — are not illegal, as long as they’re not in a public place. There are some safety measures we can take, and perhaps if we weren’t ashamed to talk about it openly, we could take the power away from the internet stalkers who prey upon our community. Our silence reinforces these predators because they know they don’t have to face any consequences. And so they continue to do what they do, and we continue to be victimized and keep it under wraps.
The Montrose Center’s Anti-Violence Program is here for you if you are the victim of an online predator. If an assault happens to you, call us and we can advocate for you. We are here to assist, and not to judge. If you get beaten up, the advocate can be with you at the hospital, and help you decide whether or not you want to file a police report. You can meet with a therapist to process what happened, and if you do file a police report, a case manager can assist you in filing for Crime Victim’s Assistance. Help is just a phone call away. Call Montrose Counseling Center at 713.529.0037 during business hours, or Gay & Lesbian Switchboard at 713.529.3211 any time, day or night, if you need help.
If it is your intention to meet someone for the sole purpose of having sex, there are some special considerations to be aware of:
- Make the major decisions before you meet. What will sex be like? Will you be using protection? Where will the hook-up occur?
- If at all possible, meet in a public place first. Make sure you feel comfortable with the person and that they are what they purported to be.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, leave.
- If you’re not able to meet in a public place, do not open your door if you see more than one person outside, even if they tell you they came along for the fun. Do not put yourself in a position to be outnumbered by people you’ve never met before.
If you are going back to their place:
- Follow him/her in your car. Always make note of the route you took to get there. Having a pad of paper and a pencil in your car helps.
- Make note of the make/model and license plate of their car.
- Call someone when you arrive and give him/her the address of where you are and/or leave it on your answering machine.
- Leave your valuables in your car. Do not take in your wallet, watch, rings, etc.
- Once inside the home, look around. Make note of the exits. Always place yourself between the person and the exits, if possible.
- Do not eat any food or drink anything while you’re at their place. You will no longer be in control if they slip something into your food or drink.
- Pay attention to whether or not the deadbolt is locked via key or turn of the lock. If by the key, pay attention to where the key is.
If you are going back to your place:
- Prior to having him/her over, remove all valuables from plain sight. Do not leave watches, jewelry, money, and/or expensive items lying around.
- Have him/her follow you in their car.
- Make note of the make/model and license plate of their car.
- When you arrive, ask him/her to leave unnecessary items in the car. If they bring a duffle bag, ask to see inside before you let them enter your home.
- Do not dead bolt yourself inside.
- Again, do not eat any food or drink while they’re at your place.
- Have a telephone in plain sight and make sure it is fully charged.
- Be aware of your exits.
Even if you think you’re safer in a public place, you still may be victimized. If you do choose to have sex in a public place, try not to isolate yourself with your sex-partner so far away from others that you cannot call for help if needed. Tell a friend where you are going and how long you plan to be gone, even if you don’t tell the friend what you will be doing.
You have a right to give and get consent for any legal behavior without being harmed. If someone attacks or robs you, you are the victim/survivor. We hope that by opening the conversation about hook-ups that we empower our community to ask for help, feel unashamed about the adult choices they are making, and ultimately lower our risk of being victims of violence.