I can't think of anything more I could've done to be certain he was legit.
Everyone watches terrible stories on the news and secretly thinks, "That would never happen to me," "I'd never do anything that stupid," and "I'm way too smart to ever find myself in that position."
So did I.
Yet, in September of 2004, the staff of a British hotel found me gagged and bound with leather belts after spending two days alone, trapped in my hotel room, nude, raped, and beaten until I was bloody and black and blue all over.
Left alone dead or alive, it didn't seem to matter. I was alone in a foreign country with no money and a ticket home to the states that wouldn't be good for another week.
I was so sure I'd done everything right and never dreamed something like that could ever happen to "A sharp girl like me who had been around and knew how things really were."
I may have been smart, but he was smarter and I was set up from day one for it to end just this way.
It all started when I met a charming English guy online on a dating site. I can see you out there, already rolling your eyes, but I was well aware of the dangers of online dating and took every precaution to ensure I wasn't being scammed.
I had him send lots of pictures: him in his house, with his dog and his family (a nine-year-old little girl named Emily from a previous marriage), to be sure he wasn't using someone else's image. I got him to show me his passport picture so I could get his real name and identification.
I knew where he worked and confirmed it by Googling his name and public records. I even met his friends online, months before we ever got seriously involved.
But when I finally fell, I fell hard. And he claimed he did too in a very non–creepy, non-stalkerish, perfectly reasonable amount of time. (And in what seemed like a perfectly normal way, after months of chatting online 3 to 4 hours every day.)
We had a torrid online affair for almost two years, with smoking hot late night calls. We became experts at erotic self-photography and X-rated webcam action that should still hold a world record in the Perverts Hall of Fame.
He never gave off a single bad vibe or warning sign and believe me, I was watching for anything even slightly suspicious. He never asked for a penny and sent me adorable little gifts ... nothing too extravagant or inappropriate, so when he suggested I come to spend a week in London with him at his expense, I couldn't have been more thrilled. He was even booking me into a hotel nearby so didn't feel any sexual pressure or responsibility until we were sure there was physically chemistry in person.
We were making plans for me to start visiting more often to see how things went. If things continued to go well, I considered moving over there.
To this day, I can't think of anything more I could've done to be certain he was legit.
When I arrived in London we had a marvelous first few days exploring the city. We made so many plans for all the wonderful things we were going to do together.
He was even better-looking in person and by the second night, instead of kissing him goodnight at the hotel room door, I invited him into my hotel room where we had amazing sex that lasted all night and through the next day.
It all seemed too good to be true, so of course it was.
It all started to go horribly wrong when he suggested a little bondage play. I'd been flirting with the idea of trying it out someday, so I was willing, and didn't fight or struggle when he used his leather belt to tie around my waist and fasten my arms down to my sides.
I wasn't scared; it had all been very loving and playful so far.
When I was completely bound and helpless, he pulled out a huge leather strap with a big metal buckle. His voice changed to cold and matter of fact, as he gagged me against my will and began to brutally and viciously beat me for hours.
I still don't understand the twisted monster's motivation. It wasn't sexual frustration, certainly, or some kind of violent rape fantasy; we'd been making love the last two days.
He'd carefully created this person over the last two days, knowing all along it was for no other reason other than to savagely beat me (while I lay unable to defend myself) until I was bruised, bleeding, and unconscious.
He then disappeared with all my cash, leaving me with no money, no place to stay, and no cab fare to even get to the airport to fly home ... which didn't leave for eight more days.
The hotel owners were very kind and respected my decision not to deal with the police. They let me eat and stay one more night for free to compose myself. The next morning I headed for the airport, determined to say or do whatever it took to just get home.
When I explained my situation, the airline made me wait for them to call the police to interview me "to see if there was anything I thought they should know."
I looked pointedly at my body, too bruised and battered all over to cover up. But they made no demands or protests when I insisted everything was fine and that I just wanted to go home.
The police and the airline decided the best thing to do was put me on the very next plane back from where I came, regardless of what my ticket said. I returned home that day.
I've racked my brain to attempt to how and why someone could do a thing like that. And it's because they're sick individuals. And there are plenty more out there, just like him.
It doesn't matter how how careful you are; to a clever predator, everyone is prey and no one is ever truly safe.
I still get chills remembering what he said the on first day we met on the Internet. I asked him why he had joined the dating site.
He said, "To meet a girl just like you."