from a UK site: http://www.ygm.org.uk/home
The Internet is useful for getting information, news and support – pretty much anything you need to know is available. Chat rooms can be good to catch up with mates and chat to other men. But the Internet, like any other social place can hold risks.
Be careful about how much you say about yourself. How well do you really know the person you’re chatting to? The Internet can be used for great things, everything from finding out information about what’s going on in your local area to chatting with people from all over the world.
The Internet can also be used negatively. Junk email from certain sites can flood your inbox, and some of the information may be explicit and not something you want others to see.
There are many sites out there specifically for gay men to chat to each other. Some sites give men who might be isolated the opportunity to get advice and support. Some of the sites are specifically for men to meet each other for sex. It is important to ensure that you are safe.
Here are some tips on how to look after yourself:
- Do not give out personal information – do you really know who you are chatting to? Why should you give someone your phone number or address? Why would they want it?
- If you do not feel comfortable with a chat, or the person is using explicit language that you don’t want to hear, end the conversation. On certain sites it is possible to block people from knowing when you are online.
- Use a pseudonym – if you put your full name on the internet it is easier for people to get hold of information about you. Use a nickname or a password that only you know.
- Meeting people – If you do arrange to meet a guy you have been chatting to, arrange the meeting in a public place. Choose somewhere others will be around like a city centre or shopping centre. If you do not feel comfortable it will be easier to get out of the situation.
You may have heard of cruising, or you might not have a clue what it is. Cruising means going to secluded outdoor areas such as parks and woods to meet men for sex. Not all gay men do this, but some do and if you are thinking of doing it, then there are a few things you should be aware of. Not all men in cruising areas are there for sex – some muggers and gay bashers target them too. If you’re the victim of this remember that having sex in a public place could, at other times, get you into trouble with the law, especially if you’re not discreet and other people see you. You should report any problems to the police. As a victim of crime, they shouldn’t be interested in the fact you were cruising, just in catching the attackers.
- A cruising area that’s been in the news can attract troublemakers and police. It may be worth avoiding until things quieten down.
- Check out a cruising site during the day to see it’s layout, exit routes, dead ends, how to get to safety, as well as the nearest bus stops, cab office or phone box.
- If you can, let someone know where you’re going – or better still go with a friend and pre arrange times and places to meet while there.
- If you have been drinking or taking drugs, stop and think – you may be more vulnerable.
- Condoms and lube – even if you are not planning to have anal sex. You can’t rely on getting them later
- Money – Make sure you have enough to get a bus or taxi home.
- Personal alarm – this is good for scaring off troublemakers and attracting help.
- Walkmans/iPods – wearing these can make you less aware of your surroundings and more of a target for muggers.
- Credit cards, expensive jewellery, larger amounts of cash and anything with your address on in case they are stolen.
- Drugs – If you have drugs on you, you could be in major trouble if stopped by the police.
When you get there:
- Be discreet – if passers by can see you having sex, or you draw attention to yourself, you can attract police and gay bashers or muggers.
- Always put valuables in a hard to reach zipped pocket.
- Avoid going off with someone to places hard to escape from like multi-storey or underground car parks, cars and alleyways.
- If you’ve been out for a few hours you may find yourself ready to take more risks – sometimes it’s best to call it a night and go home.
If you are attacked:
- Make a noise to scare attackers off – shout “fire” (more people take notice than “help”).
- Get away ASAP – trying to take them on puts you at more risk of serious harm. If knocked to the ground, cover your head but try to keep moving (harder to kick a moving target).
- After, let someone know what happened. Reporting crime means it’s less likely to happen to others.
If someone else is attacked:
- Avoid putting yourself in danger – get to a safe place.
- If/when safe to, help the attacked person out – don’t assume someone else will.
- Call the police – make a note of the attackers’ appearance, accent, car number etc.