Survey: 1 in 4 have feared for safety on a date in the past year

LONDON — It may be easier than ever to meet a potential match thanks to the countless dating apps available, but do you ever worry about how much you don’t know about the person you’re meeting for coffee? One British study found that one in four people have feared for their safety on a date in the past year.

What’s more, the survey of 2,000 British adults who’ve experienced both offline and online dating found that half of respondents remained on the date and ignored their concerns — simply so as not to offend the other party.

But experts with the dating site Plenty of Fish, which commissioned the survey for their “Safer Dating Report”, say the golden rule to dating should always be kept in mind: “If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Walk away.”

It’s always a good idea to give a loved one a heads up as to your whereabouts when meeting someone, but the survey found a third of participants admitted they didn’t let anyone know where they were going during a date, though two-thirds adults in the 18-24 age group say they typically do. Just one in five say they always keep in contact with a friend or relative during a first date, and less than a quarter (23%) have met a date alone and in a private setting for the first time.

“Twenty-three percent is too high a percentage,” former undercover cop and cyber security expert Danni Brooke says in the report. “Don’t go to their house or invite them to yours, meet in a public place. Bars, coffee shops or restaurants are good… Going to a location you know is always a good idea. Going somewhere too far away from where you live, in an area you don’t know as well, should be avoided.”

One surprising aspect of the study: just 19% of respondents would want to know if their date had a criminal history.

Far less of a surprise, considering the results of the survey, is the fact that a quarter of respondents admit they don’t know enough about safe dating.

In addition to scoping out a romantic interest’s social media accounts beforehand to learn more about them, Brooke suggests asking them questions about their career, hobbies, and prior experiences on dating apps to get a better feel for who they are. On the other hand, don’t divulge too much personal information about yourself.

“Sharing personal information with someone you barely know could result in a bad or unwelcome outcome. My advice is, don’t be too specific when you are just getting to know someone,” she says. “An astonishing 27% of singles have disclosed their home address on a first date. Instead, just give an area, i.e. if you live London, just give the borough. How much you want to disclose and when to disclose it is
your choice.”

Men were actually found to be far quicker to tell a match personal information while chatting online ahead of a date. The study showed a man reveals his full name about nine days after chatting with a potential date, compared to 15 days for women. Those numbers were about the same when it came to phone numbers, perhaps indicating both name and number are given at the same time. Meanwhile, men send matches their social media accounts 13 days into chatting, while women wait 17 days. And when it came to home address, men release that information after 25 days, compared to 41 days for women.

Of course, plenty of folks have fibbed about themselves when dating. Seventeen percent admit to having lied on a date, and a quarter of respondents have done so while chatting online with a match.

One final tip from Brooke: make sure you’re somewhere where you phone has strong service or a wi-fi connection. “This will give you the guarantee you can communicate with a friend or family member should you need to,” she says.

For Brooke’s top ten dating tips and other ways to protect yourself when dating, the Safer Dating Report can be read here.