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College students take extra precautions with online dating after Auburn student's disappearance

Aniah Blanchard's friend says she went missing after she was meeting with a guy she met online.

Posted: Oct 28, 2019 6:19 PM
Updated: Oct 28, 2019 6:23 PM

Auburn police released brand new video showing an Alabama college student at a convenience store the day she went missing.

Aniah Blanchard's friends say she was on her way to meet a guy she met online, last Tuesday. No one's seen her since. On Friday, police found her car in Montgomery with damage to the front, but still haven't found her.

WAAY 31 spoke to University of Alabama in Huntsville students who say they have a system when it comes to online dating, and Blanchard's story has them being even more careful when it comes to meeting people online.

"It's just a scary reality that we live in," Katelyn Schlageter, a UAH student, said.

"You never know what you're getting yourself into," Elizabeth Heard, another student at UAH, said.

Schlageter says she has always been cautious when it comes to meeting people online and says after hearing Blanchard's story, she will be even more cautious.

"I basically just text friends, tell them where I am, what's happening. I just give them constant updates, so if something happens, and I stop texting them, they know that something probably went wrong," Schlageter said.

Another student said it's disappointing that even in a day and age where online dating is a norm, you have to worry about your safety.

"You feel like you shouldn't have to worry about stuff like that, and I don't know, it's just scary," Heard said.

Universities and colleges are required by federal law to release crime statistics every year. Dating violence is one of the categories. At UAH, the highest number of dating violence reports were in 2016, with six. They dropped to two the following year, and four incidents were reported in 2018.

The university says if students encounter dating violence, they should reach out to the Title IX coordinator on campus.

Students say what happened to Blanchard could happen to anyone, and it's a reminder to be safe when dating.

"Share your location, come up with a code word that you could just text them and they come to you or have them call you with an emergency and you can go home," Madigan Baker, a student at UAH, said.

They say they hope Blanchard is found safe and unharmed.

"There's so many people that are like, obviously struggling with this because she has a family, she has friends, people are worried about her," Heard said.

"I hope she has a safe return, but if she doesn't, I hope they definitely figure out what happened to her, who did this, just get some peace for the family," Baker said.

Right now, it's not clear if Auburn police believe foul play is suspected. They are asking for anyone with information to contact them or their anonymous tipline.

The number for the Auburn Police Division Detective Section is 334-501-3140. The number for the anonymous tipline is 334-246-1391.

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