Withholding personal information, meeting in public protects students using dating apps

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Photo Credit: Helen Brown | Daily Texan Staff

Cat Kline said there is a lot of stigma surrounding dating apps, and occasionally for good reason. After all, it was just last month a person she connected with on the Badoo app tried to pressure her into having sex. 

“Of course I resisted all pressure,” Kline, a music education freshman, said. “And I was going to file something, and I found out that I didn’t know their name, their correct name, because they used a … fake name.”

Because she didn’t know her harasser’s real name, Kline couldn’t reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students for help. However, if identification can be provided, UTPD detective Eliana Decker said the office can assist students who encounter unsafe situations through dating apps. Decker also encouraged students to contact UTPD.

“Typically we’ll tell people, ‘If you’re uncomfortable about something or you feel suspicious or something just doesn’t feel right, let us know,’” Decker said. “We like to be a resource for students and try to guide them on how to handle situations, make sure they are staying safe and then how to move forward.”

Decker estimates UTPD receives at least one report regarding dating app concerns every semester. She recommends students keep personal information private, meet in public for dates and clearly express to the other person what is acceptable — and what isn’t — in order to stay safe. 

Architectural engineering junior Grace Hannemann, who primarily uses Tinder, said she protects herself on dating apps by trusting her gut.

“If I get a bad vibe or as soon as a conversation starts with somebody I feel like we already don’t want the same thing, I just end it right there,” Hannemann said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just stopping replying to somebody, especially if you’ve only exchanged four or five texts.”

Decker said in stressful or potentially dangerous events stemming from dating apps, UTPD wants “to help each person figure out what’s best for their situation.”

“We as police understand that these are personal situations,” Decker said. “Who you chose to date and how you choose to do that is a personal decision. It is not my place as a law enforcement officer to tell someone how they should do that. I’m just encouraging you to try to do it in as safe a manner as you feel comfortable with.”