Victim services counselors at the University of Central Florida are warning students about a web site that's aimed at helping them find anonymous "hook up" partners.
UCF cautions someone may use the Tumblr web site "UCFHookup" to take advantage of young women.
At first glance, women at UCF say they are disgusted by the web site that offers seemingly uncensored and unmonitored anonymous meetings.
By design, it's a self-described site for sex, cuddle buddies, or just friends. The web site creator does not appear to censor anything. Visitors are allowed to write posts, which the person behind the site publishes online anonymously.
"That's dangerous in itself because people can lie to you more so than when they're face to face," said Hannah Kline. "It's easier to lie online than it is in person."
That's exactly what UCF counselors are worried about. Victim Services' Sarak Laake said predators have been known to use hookup sites and apps to identify potential victims for sexual assault, human trafficking, robbery, and other crimes.
"It kind of scares me in a way because, what if someone tries to meet up with me?" said non-user Shelby Birch. "I could get raped. I could get stolen."
The site has been up for about a year and has been used by both men and women. While sites similar to UCFHookup are nothing new, some wonder why it's geared specifically to UCF students when some posts are from men in their 30s.
One man asked for anonymous sexual encounters and to pay a girl's bills. Other people listed their phone numbers and where they live, for anyone to see.
"If you're putting yourself out there, you should know that people will come up that aren't telling the truth, that are lying, that are creepy. You just have to be aware," said Marilyn Solorzano.
Victim Services advises the following for anyone seeking love online:
- Be honest about your expectations. If you only want a hookup or really want a relationship, be clear about your intentions.
- Set and communicate your boundaries, especially regarding sex.
- Beware of people who provide inconsistent information, have sudden hang ups/frequent dropped calls/restricted numbers, want too much information too soon, are very interested in your financial situation, contact you only at odd hours, or sound too good to be true.
- Avoid sharing too much personal information, like your address, finances, and passwords. Consider using a dating site that allows you to remain anonymous until you’re ready to reveal your identity.
- Consider creating a separate email account and using a different cell phone number for online hookups/dating, so people you don’t know don’t have your regular contact information.
- Learn as much as you can about the person, including asking for a picture, so you know who you’re meeting.
- Don’t assume that anyone is safe based on what they’ve said or how they look. Don’t be fooled if someone says one thing in a public forum and something different in a private conversation.
- Let a friend know when and where you’re going and what time you plan to return. Also consider sharing any identifying information you have about the person (including a picture).
- Take your cell phone with you, and make sure it’s charged.
- Meet and stay in a public place for the first few meetings.
- Take your own form of transportation.
- If the person does not match the description/picture provided, walk away.
- Stay sober and be aware of the possibility of someone tampering with your drink.
- Keep personal items and money with you at all times.
- If you feel pressured to engage in sexual activity you’re uncomfortable with, leave. It’s your right to give or withdraw consent at any time.
- If you consent to sex, use protection against STIs and pregnancy (male or female condoms, other barriers, birth control, emergency contraception/morning-after pill, etc.). Take these items with you, and don’t agree to have sex if the other party doesn’t want to use protection.
- Listen to your gut.
- If you’re in danger, call 911.