Below are some things to consider to mitigate risks in different situations
Meeting someone for the first time:
Meeting someone from online.
We all meet people online these days, but if that is the only place in which you've interacted with this person, how do you know that they are who they present themselves to be? Meeting someone you first met online isn't "wrong", but you need to consider how their anonymity could affect you. Below are some situations to consider along with some safety "best practices":
Situation: If something went wrong...
1. What suspect information would you share with the police? Do you know their name? Do you know where they live?
2. What witnesses reports could you provide to the police?
3. Who else might have had a similar experience?
Again, there's nothing wrong with meeting people from online, but it's important to be risk aware and to take precautions, just in case.
Know who you are meeting:
Learn their legal name. I have personally, on a number of occasions, provided a copy of my drivers' license prior to meeting someone for coffee.
Vet them through trusted sources.
Vetting is an art form. While gossip or trash talk about someone needs to be discouraged, it's important to be able to speak with others about both good and bad experiences you've had with someone and to do so professionally. I don't personally get along with everyone in the Community and there are certainly people I simply don't like... but that said, if asked about them as a vetting request, I would be genuine and professional in my approach.
Vet a person through multiple sources.
The internet is a great source of information if you know where to look.
Current friends and partners
Social Media journal entries
What events do they go to?
What clubs or organizations do they belong to?
Have a "Safe call" in place:
A safe call is someone you trust, who lives in the local area and who can and will call law enforcement if they don't hear from you by a specific time. This person must know where you are meeting and if your location changes, must know about the change in plans.
Have a "duress word" that is only known to you and your Safe Call.
A duress word is a pre-determined trigger word that alerts the person you're talking to that you're in danger without alerting the person putting you in danger. For example - "I'm having a great time, everything is groovy." "Groovy", in this case, might be the trigger word to let the person know to call the police. Does your Safe Call know where to tell the police to go? Do they know the name of the person you're with? Food for thought....
Meet on your turf
Meet the person in a public place that you're familiar with.
Allowing yourself to be a passenger in someone else's vehicle puts you at a significant disadvantage. You're not in control over where you are going, where you stop and may become disoriented and find yourself lost in a strange place.
Be aware of "Frenzy":
Frenzy is an over-excited state of mind that leads us to want to do everything right now and that desire can sometimes overrule our better judgement.
Listen to your instincts:
Our "spidey sense" is real.
Don't play on the first meeting:
Play is a vulnerable thing, even on an extremely casual level. It happens to us all sometimes, but listen to your instincts, do the best you can to mitigate your risks (Did you bring a condom? How about that safe call?) and pay attention to the Red Flags if and when they come up.
First Time Playing:
The first time you play with someone new should be in a public space like a club or a well-respected play space. (Vet the space in the same way you would vet a potential partner). Clubs and professionally-managed venues have DM/PMs (Dungeon Monitors/Play Monitors) that are there to provide some additional layers of safety/support to the club's members. They observe scenes in progress, help members find good locations to set up a scene and serve as a deterrent to abusive behaviors. Members are still ultimately responsible for their own safety, but imagine playing with a stranger... in a private place and with no one to help you if you needed it. Playing in public where someone can respond if you're in trouble, is very helpful.
This new person you just met... have you seen them play before? Do you know how they check in? Are they as capable as they claim to be? How do they provide for the welfare of the person they're playing with? How do they set up their scene and care for their toys? Do they provide aftercare?
Be very specific when you negotiate your first scenes with someone. Talk about what areas are okay to touch and what aren't. Talk about what toys you want to experience and which ones you don't. Discuss medical issues that either of you may have to include their STI status. Discuss safer sex practices, limits, boundaries and how you plan to communicate those.
There are plenty of checklists out there for you to use, but remember that a checklist is only a tool to help organize the things that are important to you so that you can talk about those points more easily in an open and transparent discussion.
Set, Communicate and Hold Your Boundaries:
Set your boundaries:
- Know what your intentions are
- Know what you want and don't want to experience
- Understand "Frenzy" and how that might affect your judgement
Communicate your boundaries:
- Be direct, clear and truthful
- Be specific
- Don't be afraid of scaring off a potential partner because you're not ready (or don't want) to experience something. There will be others. I promise.
Hold your boundaries:
- If someone is making you uncomfortable, tell them to back off.
- Use your safe word and discuss non-verbal safe words (For example, if you're gagged, how do you communicate? Drop a ball... lift your left foot, etc)
- Don't dismiss violations. Speak up. Tell them what went wrong, why it was wrong and how it made you feel.