I just read E. Jean's advice about online dating and it reminded me of an issue that I'm having right now. I recently met a guy online. We've been emailing back and forth and he seems nice, charming, career oriented and he's quite cute, too. So far it's nothing serious, I'm just having a good time getting to know him. We recently exchanged phone numbers and had our very first conversation last night — it was easy and not at all forced. After we hung up I felt hopeful about a guy for the first time in a while. Just for fun, I decided to Google him. I ended up finding information about his legal past and to my shock and horror, he spent 45 days in jail for verbally intimidating a woman who had pressed charges against his brother for domestic violence. It was originally a felony offense for "witness tampering" that was reduced to a misdemeanor. I wouldn't have expected him to volunteer this info so early in our getting-to-know-you phase, but at the same time it makes me feel very uncomfortable that he has a secret past. He didn't actually commit violence, but the idea that he threatened a woman who was victimized by a member of his family makes me concerned that he might have been socialized to believe that violence against women is OK. I want to believe that he learned his lesson because he seems to be a productive member of society, but this new information has put up a bunch of red flags. So my question is this: Do I give him the benefit of the doubt, ignore his past and judge him based on the way he's treated me thus far or do I move on to the next guy? – Freaked Out Phoebe
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Dear Freaked Out Phoebe,
Since you're seeing red flags, I think you should tell him that you know about this part of his past. You're right, since you're still in the getting-to-know-each-other phase, chances are he didn't feel comfortable telling you just yet, but in all fairness to him, you really don't know the entire story — until you ask him, we can only speculate. Google can be a great source for information but it can also make mountains out of molehills if you don't have all the information, especially the back story.
We all know that you can become anyone you want on the Internet but most online dating services prescreen their clients, so make sure you're using a reputable service. Now I wouldn't just give this guy the benefit of the doubt Phoebe— you need to get answers before you continue with this relationship. Once you hear his side of the story, I'd listen to your gut, trust your instincts, and make your decision from there. Yes, the way he treats you now is incredibly important, but so is making sure you're safe. Good luck.