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We may be free, but are we safe?

We may be free, but are we safe?

We may be free, but are we safe?

If you’ve been binging video content online, you’ve come across many shows that talk of the apocalypse.

And why not, with the current abnormal circumstances that the world is going through, the apocalyptic, dystopian tv shows feel slightly familiar now.

We may not have zombies, we may not have bigoted dictators that have killed ALL of the opposition, we may not live in the lawless frontiers yet, but we sure have the wherewithal for it all.

Does it sound too gloomy? Well, take a look around, the rise of extremist leaders to the top, economic disasters, ethnic and racial tensions, and a media that makes it all look like a salacious scandal instead of information – We indeed contain the makings of an apocalypse.

One of the bases for totalitarian bigoted futures is prejudice. Prejudice against anything that is different.

This isn’t new information, the Nazis tortured, enslaved & killed not just Jews, but homosexuals, differently-abled people and many other communities. Change and difference were what drove their hatred.

Sound familiar? If you’ve faced homophobia & gender discrimination, racism, ablism, castism you’re already familiar with this.

The ways in which this fear-based violence against members of the LGBTQIA+ community erupts are new and constantly changing.

One of the ways in which the community has been targeted by forces within and without are violent and exploitative attacks through dating apps.

Such attacks are way more common than one might think, and the horror stories of such incidents are chilling to the core. From getting extorted for money on a date-turned-“paid sex” nightmare, to the threat of outing and serious abuse, a simple date can turn into an everlasting traumatic experience.

In the years 2017-18, more than 100 cases of harassment on gay dating apps were registered across major states, according to the Humsafar Trust.

With the soaring popularity of LGBTQIA+ dating platforms in recent years, this number is likely to have increased exponentially.

While dating apps are indeed a risky business, and the onus of providing safety to the potential victims should always be on the dating platforms and social elements, it is always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it?

If you too are, worried about going on a date with a stranger you found through an app, here are some precautions you could take:

  1. Stalk their Instagram/Facebook!  : It’s a match, congrats! But is it the same person you think they are? Get their real name instead of relying on the usernames. Always verify whether the person you’re meeting matches their description. Lookup for them on social media, go through their names, bio, posts to make sure you’re not being catfished.
  2. Don’t disclose too much!  : Is the person asking too many personal questions? Don’t give it all out, that’s a major NO. Fraudsters/abusers hold your private information against you, by gaslighting, or threatening to abuse or out you.
  3. Meet the person at public places, avoid secluded spots.  : Yes, a cosy night at their place or in the outskirts of the city sounds lovely, but don’t make that the site for your first date. Meet where there are enough people constantly around, like a restaurant. If they are constantly changing the place to meet, it could be a warning sign. Also, avoid late-night hours when meeting for the first time.
  4. Tell your friends, share your live location.  : Your friends are worried about you! Share your location with them while you’re meeting your date. Keep them updated. That what loo breaks are for! The live location tracking offered by different messaging apps works wonders here.
  5. Don’t drink/take drugs on the first date  : It’s important that you don’t find yourself in a vulnerable situation, so postpone the plans of getting high and drunk to later dates when you get to know the person better. Your blind trust could end you up in a serious mess!
  6. Communicate your expectations  : What are you looking for on a date night? It could be just a chatty evening date or a hook-up, or maybe something more? Do not forget to set your boundaries before agreeing to meet, and defend them if they are being crossed.
  7. Report if anything happens  : If something feels off or goes wrong, it is very important to seek help immediately. Approach your nearest police station, assert your rights. There could be many reasons why you wouldn’t want to do that, but if it is possible, please report.

Before 377 was amended due to the Supreme Court judgement, going to the authorities was far more dangerous than it is now. Today that option is slowly opening up.

It is understandable that for someone living in the closet the risk posed by such incidents remains immeasurable. Such incidents also make one feel powerless. Yet, if you can, reporting such incidents will help you take back some of the power.

  1. Trust your instincts  : While putting yourself out there is important when dating or just meeting people, your instincts are your most reliable compass in such situations. If something feels off it most probably is. Meeting in a place that is public, where you’re not isolated will give you time to assess the person you’re meeting thoroughly. Trust your gut.

These pointers are sure to help you in avoiding extremely unfavourable situations while navigating the exciting and adventurous world of online dating.

This article does not intend to in any way suggest that the victims are responsible for the kind of exploitation they go through, however living in a world where such elements are on the rise, caution is oftentimes our best friend.

The future may look bleak, and this is the time we have to hold on to each other, form new connections and meet new people. (Not during the pandemic of course, but in a future where social distancing is no longer required)

People, their stories, empathy hold our cure. Finding a partner, a friend, a group of people who understand and accept us is important. In that quest however protecting yourself, your heart and your mind are equally important. The bigots cannot win if we trust ourselves and show a little bit of caution.

If you’re someone who’s experienced such unfortunate attacks, remember, It isn’t your fault. Please seek help. Whether that is a friend, a medical professional or someone you trust. The heartless world would have us believe that we are alone. If only you reach out, you’ll find that there’s overwhelming support available. All you have to do is ask!

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