I love a dating story, they can provide hours of entertainment for friends and family (and random strangers), some are hilarious, some just ridiculous, but there are some that are just damn well terrifying.
I am going to tell you about mine.
There was a time a couple of years ago where I was still trying to recover from the loss of a significant relationship, one that ended and turned out to all be lies, one that almost destroyed me to my very core. But I was trying to be on the up, I was trying to move forward so I was doing what many people do in this situation… I was dating. I was dating a lot. It wasn’t unusual for me to go on 3 dates with 3 guys over the same weekend. I was a woman on a mission. I was going to find him, and I was sure as hell putting in the effort.
It started with a swipe with a rather handsome guy called Matt. The chat response was instant, the conversation flowed easily, he was charming and attentive, he asked all; the right questions. His photo’s were nothing short of beautiful, he was almost too good to be true.
I text my friend his picture to our group chat, with the caption:
“This is Matt the 35 year old airline pilot, who wants to bet his name is really Dave and he is a 50 year old, 20 fag a day smoker who works at Tesco? ”
I was close it turns out.
I started to get my suspicions a week or so into the conversation, we spoke on the phone a couple of times at his request and the voice didn’t match up, at all. He told me all about how he was engaged and then his partner had cheated on him with his best mate whilst he was away working. Have I mentioned he was an airline pilot? (of course he was!!) I suggested a facetime call on several occasions, but he could never fit that into his schedule, the photo’s were all very similar and never just ‘take one now’, He also had a rather fun and ridiculous response as to why his bumble location services said he was 20 miles away when he was claiming to be in China …. He must really have thought women are stupid.
For me, there were too many red flags, I started to feel uncomfortable. So, I blocked him. By this time, we had been chatting rather frequently but enough was enough, I wasn’t convinced any of it was true and I wasn’t going to hang around anymore to find out.
A couple of months later, I was in Shoreditch having dinner with friends one Friday night. I got a phone call, ‘Hi this is Detective Smith Calling from the Sexual Violence Investigation Unit’, Instant alarm bells rang obviously .. this isn’t a usual Friday night conversation …. they went on to say they had found my number on the blocked list of a phone linked to an arrest they had made. I immediately said ‘Matt the airline Pilot’ and they said yes.
Turns out, this man was actually Chris, a late 40’s bin man who groomed women he met on bumble as Matt the gorgeous airline pilot, and then sent them a masseuse round as a treat, turning up himself and sexually assaulting women in their own home. As the police continued their investigation, there was more than one victim, many of whom were listed with me in the blocked list.
I provided a statement, though I wasn’t required in court. He got a custodial sentence, 2 years and 8 months and on the sex offenders register for life. My gut had served me well, but several others were not so lucky.
It made me ask many questions about how women protect themselves when dating, I was shocked to be honest, that women give out their home addresses to strangers they have never met. I always meet in public places for first dates and I would always encourage others to do the same, I never accept lifts home etc until I know a person well. But it seemed to methat personal safety is getting forgotten and that to me is very worrying, I think it reflects an overwhelming desire many of us just to be the one that they pick, out of all the choices online. In order to get ahead, we forget, or park, some of the safety standards we should be adhering too. But we shouldn’t. The right guy will understand if you don’t want to give out your address or if you say no to something until you meet properly or you feel more comfortable.
When I tell people this story, they can never quite believe that it is a thing, and the thought of how things for me could have ended very differently was a worry for a while.
Now, I just take extra care of myself. I don’t put myself into situations that aren’t safe. I listen to my gut. I say no. I walk away and most importantly I remind myself ….
If something seems too good to be true. It probably is.
*all names have been changed … or not. Whatever.