Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tori Pennington could have lived

Last Saturday Tori Pennington's body was found by her 12 year old son. In Tuesdays Avalanche-Journal Robin Pyle reported that she was allegedly killed by a man she met through an online dating service. At the time I'm writing this not a whole lot is known, other than she had been talking with Dustin Kendrick online and over the phone for an undisclosed amount of time. It is presumed that this was their first face-to-face meeting. This isn't the first online relationship in Lubbock to end in murder. In 2004 Joanna Rogers disappeared and was later found dead in the Lubbock Landfill. Her killer was initially connected to her by chat records and emails on his computer. We can only guess at the number of people in Lubbock who have been beaten by people they met online but never reported it.

Sometimes bad things happen. But often they can be avoided, and meeting online doesn't have to be any more dangerous than any other way to meet people. So here I am going to suggest a few steps to take when meeting people online. They won't guarantee your safety, but they will at least reduce the risk. They aren't in order of importance because they are all important.

  • If you're looking for dates online, go to a large, reputable site that does at least a little checking on it's members. The final call is still up to you, but every extra bit of screening helps.

  • Spend plenty of time getting to know them online before meeting in person. The longer you interact and the more you see of their actions, the more likely you're seeing "the real them."

  • Don't give them your address or home phone. Give a cell phone number - in most cases you can't get an address by looking up a cell phone number on the internet. With land lines you can.

  • I don't care how nice he (or she) is, the first few times you meet in person, don't meet at home, a hotel, or any place you will be alone. That includes going there after the dinner, movie, whatever. Meet in public places, preferably with friends. They will probably see things you don't - good and bad.  You will have to judge at what point you feel 'safe' being alone, but the first date definitely isn't it.

  • Alchohol impairs judgment. Drink little or none the first few dates.

  • When you do decide it's ok to meet in more private places, make sure someone knows where your going. Having a friend call to check up on you isn't a bad idea, and it can give you an out if you're getting uncomfortable.

To find more ideas for safely dating people you meet online, google "online dating guide" or "safe online dating."

My prayers go out to Tori Pennington's family, especially her children.