by Dr. Fayr Barkley, Ph.D
Unless you have not been paying attention to the news lately, you can't have missed the latest online dating disaster: Robyn Gardner-age 35- of Maryland, met a man, Gary Giordano-age 50- on line (Match.com) and agreed to travel with him to Aruba, where she "went missing" and he is now being detained by authorities who suspect foul play.
More than one of his ex girlfriends has come forward to say this guy is a real piece of work and more than one restraining order has been filed against him by women. One of his exes has been on camera, in silhouette, to say he has cameras "all over his house" and was violent toward her. Things were bad enough for him to have had an attorney represent him for the past 18 months. There are plenty of court documents then, for someone to have researched the guy before traveling with him.
I have been online dating since 2001. I have met some really great guys and some real jerks. I have learned to refine my question asking over the phone to try my best to weed out the sociopaths, but some are going to slip through the cracks. That is what coffee or lunch meetings in well lit, very public places are for.
No way in hell would I take a trip anywhere with a man I did not know well. That is a predator's dream come true and a recipe for disaster and perhaps even death.
Apparently this guy told Robyn he "had two tickets to Aruba" and asked her to join him. If a guy just happens to have a couple tickets anywhere except a local play or sporting event, you have to wonder why he is asking a total stranger (you) to go with him to a place far away from home. Ladies, that is a big red flag!
Did it occur to Robyn to do any due diligence? Did she Google this guy? Pay a few dollars to run an online background search on him? See if they had any friends in common with whom she could confer about his character or lack thereof? Did she spend a few weeks or months dating him/meeting his friends/meeting his family/seeing how he navigated in his world?
If she had, she would have seen he had some questionable skeletons in his closet and, hopefully, taken a pass.She may have witnessed how he treated the waiters at a restaurant, how he handled himself in stressful situations, how he spoke about his ex wife or ex girlfriends, how he may have portrayed himself as a victim of life, or any number of red flags women need to be aware of when getting to know a man. Perhaps the allure of a stranger bearing gifts in the form of a ticket to paradise was too much for her to pass up. Now, she is gone.
Robyn was no kid. At 35 she was "old enough" to know better. But I have to wonder how many other women are out there who have found themselves in precarious situations with online strangers who have yet to come forward? Perhaps escaping some kook was enough to teach them to be more cautious, ask more questions, get to know the man first, spend some time with him, meet his family/friends/coworkers.
The Internet is a place where relationship dreams can come true. It is also a fertile hunting ground for predators and sociopaths. It is up to us as women to be smart. We have to educate ourselves on the warning signs, ask the right questions, pay a few bucks for a background check, look for and respect any red flags that arise and not be so quick to dismiss them.
Be careful. It's dangerous out there.