Online social networking has become the staple in modern society for connecting people of various backgrounds and for various forms of relationships. Social networking has greatly impacted dating in many ways, from the number of online dating services to the types of online based dating. In more recent years, online dating has become one of the most common ways for singles to meet in hopes of forming a romantic relationship. Users today can participate in video dating using web cams, virtual dating using 3D avatars from programs like Second Life, and perhaps the most intriguing and risky, matchmaking online dating websites.
Online dating and social networking have impacted the way we communicate both in person and online. The term “Catfish” has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the phenomenon that is online dating. For those of you that don’t know, a Catfish is someone who creates a false online identity with the intentions of pursuing a deceptive online romance. MTV has made a Docu-series following people involved in an online romance, who are sometimes (frequently) Catfished, on their adventures to meet in person. Meeting in person after developing an online romance can be extremely risky and is not something to be taken lightly.
Whatever your reasons are for using dating websites, it’s important to understand all of the implicated risks, how to prevent them, and how to defend yourself in a worst case scenario.
There have been several instances of meeting people online that have gone horribly wrong such as the craigslist killer and what happened to Mary Kay Beckman. Mary Kay met, what she thought was, a nice guy off of Match(dot)com who ended up brutally attacking her after their romance didn’t pan out. Her ex-flame broke into her garage several months later and stabbed her 10 times and stomped on her head repeatedly after the knife broke. Mary Kay Beckman is not the only victim and she will not be the last.
The dangers of online dating often far exceed the potential benefits. Some of the dangers stem from the dating websites themselves and the other dangers from the users. Statistically speaking, women are more likely to be sexually assaulted, 1 out of 6 American women have been a victim of attempted or completed rape. Dr. Paige Padgett from the University of Texas Health and Science Center found that there was a false degree of safety assumed by women in online dating sites that exposes them to stalking, fraud and sexual violence. This comes at no surprise when 80% of people on dating websites lie about things like age, height, weight and finances and when 10% of sex offenders use online dating websites to meet people.
Dangers also come from an over saturation of personal information required to join some services. This information can provide people with information you wouldn’t tell just anyone. And vise versa, making you feel as if you’ve known a person you’ve never met for years.
No dating website has released their entire matching algorithm, however, OkCupid is one of the only that tries to explain how this works. To put it simply dating websites are good at matching likes with likes. Therein lies one of the problems with meeting people romantically online. The matching algorithms these sites use match personality traits and attributes to match people with someone they’re most likely to get along with, but studies have shown that this only accounts for 0.5% of satisfaction people get from their relationships (leaving something else responsible for the 99.5% of romantic satisfaction.) This leaves only one question remaining for users; is it worth the risk? There is no way for dating websites to know how people will interact off of the web, or their communication patterns. This leaves predators the opportunity to exploit loneliness.
While there are many tips out there to help assess the legitimacy of a person’s identity and intentions, there is only one way to prevent something like what happened to Mary Kay Beckman from happening, that’s learning how to physically defend yourself.
Rape Prevention, reality based self defense , and even Krav Maga all use the sport based martial arts used in MMA. Mixed Martial Arts can provide people with the skills and discipline necessary to defend against an attacker. For women, this could be a pivotal factor that determines whether or not they survive an attack.
According to US law, civilians have the right to engage in self defense using a reasonable level of violence (or reasonable force) and in certain circumstances, the use of deadly force. When put in a dangerous situation, everyone should exercise their right to defend themselves.
Just because you may know martial arts doesn’t mean that you should use those skills. There is a fine line between self defense and assault once someone has the skills to physically harm someone. The best route to self defense is to only use force proportionate to the force with which you were threatened and to stop once the assailant is no longer a threat. It is important to know your duty to retreat. Failing to recognize when to stop is when self defense becomes assault, making you the attacker.
However, violence should only be used as a last resort, there are ways you can help prevent putting yourself in a dangerous situations when using online dating services. The very first thing you can (and should) do is research the person you’re talking to online. There are many websites that offer background checks and public arrest records. Even facebook can provide some information on the person you are considering meeting. Although online searching is a good way to dig up some dirt on a person, no online record of them should raise a red flag as well. Talking to the person on the phone is another good way to determine if they’re being truthful. By interviewing them about a subject they claim to be experts in, you can deduce whether or not they are deceiving you. If, finally, you decide to meet, be sure it is in a public place and at least one person knows where you are and who you are with. In the event that things take a turn for the worst, be prepared. But before you commit to using violence as self defense, talking your attacker down or retreating should be your first option.
Mixed martial arts can provide the skills needed to asses a threat, register required use of force, show self restraint, and defend yourself when meeting people from an online dating service. Don’t be a victim, defend yourself.