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Yesterday a man and woman were found dead at a Kansas indoor shooting range. The deaths are currently under investigation. What is known is that the couple entered the range together, and that no one else was involved in the shootings–which leads us to believe it was a murder/suicide.

They met on an online dating site.

Before you start freaking out, it’s obvious there are so many factors we don’t know. How long had they been dating? Had their relationship been volatile? Could this have been a joint suicide pact? We’ll have to wait on the detectives to get us those answers. But for now, this news got me thinking about the importance of dating safety.

This will inevitably be a multi-part blog because there’s no way I could write every dating safety tip in 700 words or less. For today, I will start with rules to guide the initial meeting—the first time you actually get together to go on a date. This advice goes for anyone, whether you’re work colleagues, a friend set you up or you met on eHarmony.

#1: Cell phones only. When initially giving out your digits or making calls, don’t ever use your home or work number. If someone’s got these numbers, it’ll take about 15 seconds to go online and find your home address or where you work. Creepy, right? You don’t need to go all Jason Bourne and get a disposable cell phone to chuck in a city dumpster at the end of your date. Just use your cell.

#2: Drive it yourself. Even if a guy offers to pick you up at home, insist on driving alone. Walk, take the train or hail a cab. Even if it costs you a few extra bucks, it’s worth it. I know it sounds dreamy to have a guy show up at your front door with flowers. But this ain’t the 1950s anymore. Getting yourself to the meeting place offers you security in keeping your home address private. And it also offers a “way out” in case the date takes a harsh left turn. You can just get up, walk out and go home.

#3: Check in with friends. Always let a friend or family member know where you’ll be. If you think this is going overboard, you are a classic example of someone who doesn’t understand the dangers of dating in the 21st century. It’s a scary world we live in. I’m not asking you to carry mace and a rape whistle. Just tell a friend who you’re going out with and where you’re going… and then check in with them after the date is over. Yes, even if you’re 63 and met on DatingForSeniors.com. Grandmas deserve safety, too.

#4: Meet in a public place. And by public, I mean busy. It doesn’t have to be a crowded bar (not recommended), but it should be somewhere with other citizens around—people who your lawyer could call in as witnesses should the need arise. A restaurant, a coffee shop, a movie theater, a bowling alley—somewhere where you would feel safe if you were alone. Not to minimize the recent tragedy in Kansas, but I do not recommend shooting ranges, or anywhere where weapons are readily available.

#5: Don’t ever, EVER go home on the first date. This tip might not sit well with some of my readers, because it means you can’t hook up on the first date. Oh, stop your whining. As much as I don’t think you should give it up on the first date, I also don’t think you should give up your life on the first date. Overdramatic? Possibly. Necessary? Absolutely. I know many girls who have gone to a guy’s place on the first date, only to feel trapped or be pushed to do things they didn’t want to do. It’s a terrible position to put yourself in. So… (light bulb!)… don’t put yourself in that position!

When you’re meeting someone, you’ve got to be careful. I don’t care if they seem like the sweetest, kindest, most angelic person on the planet. Protecting yourself comes first, and sometimes it means saying no.

After a few dates, you might feel comfortable enough to let him or her know where you live or work. Trust your gut, your heart and the advice of close friends. By protecting yourself early on, though, you can save yourself the heartache and headache that often happen when you don’t take dating safety seriously from the start.

~Ruth