My social media feed has been blowing up the past few days with two different, tragic stories involving single moms dating monsters.
First: Colorado mom Catherine St. Germain created a video that has gone viral, detailing her relationship and then marriage to a smart, hard-working single dad she'd known for 20 years. He sexually assaulted St. Germain's 15-year-old daughter, spent 90 days in jail and was sentenced to 8 years on sex-offender probation.
In the video, in which the mom tells her story via hand-written notes and photos, she says: “‘Stranger Danger' is a joke.” and “Monsters look and act normal … They are people we trust with our children every day.”
She then urges: “Single moms should check the National Sex Offender Registry!” and concludes with a cry to share the video with other single moms.
The thing is this: St. Germain's perpetrator was not on a sex-offender registry.
Second: Seattle single mom of three and nurse Ingrid Lyne, 40, was found dismembered in a recycling bin, for which a local man was arrested. The two were scheduled to attend a Mariner's baseball game on a first date.
Social media and news headlines have honed in on the fact the two met on a dating site, setting off alarms that the Match.coms and OKCupids are inherently dangerous meeting grounds for adults — most especially vulnerable populations like unmarried mothers.
Note this email I received this morning:
Both these stories are horrifying and should not be ignored. That goes without saying (though I get that I just said it).
What does need to be said is that you cannot not build your entire life around outlying, heinous crimes. If you do, you will be paralyzed. If you do, your whole life, your whole family, even society shuts down. That is what happened with the missing child crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though life is far, far safer for our children today, we still hover over our children like helicoptering hawks, our kids have scant freedom to play and roam, and are missing out on critical development and physical exercise as a result — all because milk-carton, headline stories loom large in our collective conscious.
As for the actual dangers of single moms marrying a pedophile: Yes, this is a risk. But it is not a single-mom-marrying-a-pedophile problem. This is a life-really- really-really-stinks-so-freaking-bad problem. Men you date might hurt your kids. So might older siblings, parents or family friends at sleepovers. So may the leaders at your church or synagog. Or teachers at school or derelicts lurking in the bushes outside the after-school program. Or, a relative, including one of your own children.
And yes, a cute, white, athletic man with sports tickets you met online might chop your body into pieces and leave them in a suburban recycling receptacle. That is indeed a risk. A risk that has little to nothing to do with online dating, but much, much more to do with horrific luck this mom had that one night, bigger issues around violence towards women, and a broken criminal system.
Here is what we do know: 15 percent of U.S. adults use online dating sites, and 5 percent of people who are married or in a serious, committed relationship met online. That is a whole, whole lot of first dates that started out online. Tens if not hundreds of millions of first dates. Hundreds of millions of first dates. I've heard of one single mom being beheaded on a first date — a single mom, it might be noted, who was a very pretty, middle-class woman, making for excellent headlines for the media — the media which of course survives on clicks accelerated by violent stories involving beautiful women.
Personally, I find online dating to be safer that old-fashioned meeting. If I connect with a guy online, 99 percent of the time I can find his LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles within 5 minutes. I could then look him up on sex offender and other criminal registries, probably find some mutual friends or colleagues — all before even meeting. If I hook up with a guy I meet at a bar (you know, the wholesome, old-fashioned way), all I know about him is what he told me, and maybe the testimony of any friends he may be with.
Practical things you can do to protect yourself from sociopaths and weirdos alike:
You know all the things:
- Check those registries and criminal records.
- Know his friends and family.
- Understand behavior of pedophiles and sociopaths.
- Don't ignore those red flags … the gut reaction when he glosses over his past, or blames the women in his life for his failures, or bursts of violence or weirdness.
But in addition to all of this: DO NOT STOP LIVING. When you live in fear, you live a lie. It is a lie that that the world is horrible and dangerous all the time. It is not. Sometimes it is. But life is more good than bad. People are more good than bad. Men are more good than bad. If this is not your experience, you must take steps to change your circumstances so that you are indeed around people, life and men who are mostly good.
When you live a life of truth, your instincts are honed and sharp. They signal like wildfire when something is amiss, because life and people are amiss the minority of the time. When you are circulating around good people most of the time, when a wierdo is in your midst you are more likely to know it. Because that is the outlier.
Of course, none of the above information protects me or my kids 100 percent from anything, as St. Germain will tell you. Because that is life. And life sometimes really, really, horribly absolutely stinks, and as crippling as it may sound, there are no guarantees you can protect yourself 100 percent.
But what you can do is not allow these atrocious stories or the glorified headlines to cripple you. You have that choice. You have the power to live a full, reasonable healthy life based on actual risks and facts — and not on sensation or fear-mongering.
Do these horrible stories scare you into not dating — ever? Were you already hesitant about getting out there again? Mama — I feel you! I was there! You are not alone!
That is why I created Get Back Into Dating for Single Moms
In this video course I show you, step-by-step:
- Address your fears about dating — and squash them forever.
- How to get your sexy back!
- Where to find great guys!
- Feel confident and have fun online dating and flirting!
- Be positive about romance and men!
- Start dating again, with confidence and a fun, sexy attitude!
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.