ORLANDO, Fla. – A try at finding turned into a terrifying night for a single mom who went on a date with a man she met on the online dating service Plenty of Fish.
"He was a big, sweet teddy bear. He was very generous in the beginning," the 22-year-old woman, who asked to hide her identity, said. "The pictures on POF -- he didn't look like a monster at all."
But the woman said that all changed once he picked her up around 8 p.m. Monday night. She said they drank and smoked marijuana together before heading to a few fast-food restaurants.
She thought it was going to be a relaxing night to hang out until she said her date began making suspicious stops in Parramore, where she believes he was dealing drugs. The woman said she felt uncomfortable and asked the man to take her home.
Instead, she said he took her to an unknown place near Lake Underhill and snapped. She said he sexually assaulted her.
"I'm begging him to stop touching me. 'Get your hands off of me, please!'" she said. "Then he takes my hair and he pulls it down really low, and he's pulling it and in my ear he kept saying, 'Stop playing with me. Stop getting loud. Stop fighting me. Stop fighting me.'"
But she said she didn't stop and instead kept fighting until he kept driving, hoping he would take her home. She said he didn't, and that they went from Parramore through Lake Underhill and onto Semoran Boulevard. It was as they were approaching Hoffner Avenue that the 22-year old said she found a moment to escape.
"I hit the unlock button and I jumped out. He tried to grab me, but that's when I was able to get away. I ran to the 7-Eleven and I called the police."
Orlando police are investigating. News 6 was there as the woman gave detectives another written statement. Because it's an open investigation, OPD could not comment on the case. However, no arrests have been made.
The woman said she wants to warn anyone dating online.
"I'm just hoping that my story can help women out here be able to let them know when you are, not even online, even when you meet a person, be careful," she said.
Match.com offered the following tips for safe online dating experiences:
Get to know the other person
Keep your communications on the platform and really get to know users online/using the app before meeting them in person. Bad actors often push people to communicate off the platform immediately. It’s up to you to research and do your due diligence.
Always meet and stay in public
Meet for the first few times in a populated, public place – never in a private or remote location and never at your date’s home or apartment. If your date pressures you, end the date and leave at once.
Tell your friends and family members of your plans
Inform a friend or family member of your plans and when and where you’re going. Make sure you have your cellphone charged and with you at all times.
Transport yourself to and from the meeting
You need to be independent and in control of your own transportation, especially in case things don’t work out.
Consumption of alcohol and/or other drugs can impair your judgment and potentially put you in danger. It’s important to keep a clear mind and avoid anything that might place you at risk. Be aware that bad actors might try to take advantage of you by altering your beverage(s) with synthetic substances