Content in this article contains information about sexual assault which some readers may find triggering.
Over the last week in a joint investigation by Hack and Four Corners bought the dangers of dating apps to the world’s attention.
When Avani Dias put the call out on Hack, seeking stories from people who had been sexually assaulted by someone they met on a dating app, the popular Triple J program received over 400 responses from all over the country.
Amongst these responses there were two stories that the team heard repeatedly – the first being that, after committing sexual assault, predators were using the platforms ‘Unmatch’ function to delete their conversations, therefore removing the evidence of any previous interaction.
Secondly, when these women were reporting these incidences to Tinder, they would either hear nothing back or receive an automated response.
What Is The ‘Unmatch’ Function And Why Is Available On The App?
Tinder’s ‘Unmatch’ function was set up to protect users from harassment, giving them the option to block people from contacting them again. Along with removing someone from your contact list, the ‘Unmatch’ function also removes your entire chat history with them, on your device and theirs. Recently though, predators have been using this feature to remove evidence and essentially disappear after committing sexual assault.
Four Women Share Their Story
There were four women featured in the Hack and Four Corners Investigation, Beth, Brooke, Emily and *Lauren. All four women were brave enough to share their stories in the hopes of creating policy change and preventing this from happening to other women.
Brooke met her perpetrator in 2017 during her final year of university. Brooke told Hack/Four Corners that she joined Tinder to look for love.
When the pair matched, she thought he seemed like a nice guy as he had recently moved to town to look after his grandmother.
The first and second date went well but things started to take a dark turn on the third date when he drove her out of town, to the middle of nowhere. When they pulled over in the dark, Brooke started to panic and asked to be taken home. He retaliated by throwing her phone out the window and breaking it. Stranded with this man, Brooke began to fear that something awful was about to happen. The man forced her into the backseat and proceeded to rape her. When he was done, he drove her home in silence.
The next day Brooke decided to report the incident to Tinder but as she went to gather information from his profile and their messages within the app, she quickly realised that he had ‘Unmatched’ her. All of the evidence was gone, she had taken no screenshots or photos of the two of them together, there was no way to trace him.
Emily matched with a firefighter who immediately asked for sexually explicit images of her. She informed him that she wasn’t interested in that kind of relationship and he apologised and assured her that he wasn’t ‘like that’ and the two kept chatting.
One morning Emily went to visit him at his beachfront apartment where he raped her three times, filming the entire incident. Emily was terrified and overpowered by the man she described as ‘ripped’.
Four days later she reported the incident to police who informed her that as she did not explicitly say ‘no’ there was not much that they could do. They did, however, tell her that they would get a warrant for his phone. The warrant never happened; instead, the man got away with a warning and was told to delete the footage.
Emily reported the man to Tinder with all of the information she had on hand including his name, address and occupation but was devastated when all she received was an automated response. Later when she found out that the same man was threatening other women on the same platform, she reported him again and finally received a notification to say that his account had been banned.
Beth and her match talked on and off for six months before going to his house to hang out.
When she arrived, she immediately realised that he was not who she thought he was. He was much bigger than he looked in his profile and she found his stature intimidating.
He instantly led her to the bedroom where they began to have intercourse but what started out as consensual sex turned into Beth having her head squashed into the bed and her asking to stop.
He told her that she was ‘not allowed to leave until he came’. Beth was petrified and quickly snuck out of the bed and asked for a drink of water to cause a distraction however, in the kitchen the man held her at knifepoint. Beth managed to escape and on the way home she pulled the car over and reported the incident straight away but like Emily and Brooke all she received was an automated response.
Lauren, who wishes to keep her real identity private, met a man on Tinder who told her that he was a snowboarder and lawyer.
She went out with the man twice; the second time was to the pub with his friends. After a few drinks Lauren told the group that she was leaving but went to the bathroom first. Her date, who told her his name was Dillon, followed her in and forced her into a stall where he tried to rape her. Thankfully Lauren managed to escape.
Not long after the incident, Lauren was contacted by the police who informed her that her date, whose real name was Glen Hartland, was a serial rapist who had raped three other women.
Tinder’s Response to The Hack/Four Corners Investigation
In response to the Hack/Four Corners Investigation, Tinder has announced policy changes stating that, they ‘take incidents of sexual assault with the utmost urgency and seriousness and will always – always – work with law enforcement to help ensure that justice is served.’
And asking that ‘law enforcement authorities everywhere, please know that we want offenders punished and off our platforms. If you are investigating anyone and believe we have any information that can be helpful, contact our legal department.’
They also stated that they will direct victims who report sexual assault to resources to receive counselling and support however, they have not said if they will be making any changes to the ‘Unmatch’ function though they did say that they are able to retrieve messages after people have been unmatched.
Violence and Sexual Assault Facilitated By Dating Apps
Violence and sexual assault facilitated by dating apps is an international problem that has been around for a long time and is not exclusive to Tinder. In 2018, Brooklyn woman *Emily C, was raped by a man she met on Bumble, when she reported the incident to the company she received no response, a few months later she saw the man was still active on the app, to add insult to injury, she also found him active on Tinder and Hinge.
Emily reported the man to Tinder and Hinge, like Bumble, Tinder did not respond, Hinge sent an automated response stating that they ‘take abuse seriously’ but when she followed up months later, she received the same automated response.
In 2016, Vice News reported that in Scotland reports of rape linked to online dating rose 450 percent in just five years. In a report by the UK’s National Crime Agency, these perpetrators have deemed a ‘new type of sexual offender’, people who are taking advantage of how easy it is to find victims, they are often people with no criminal convictions, and they use dating platforms to lure their victims into a false sense of security so that they feel safe seeing them in a private place for their first face-to-face interaction.
This notion is echoed by NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith who told Hack/Four Corners that, ‘people on dating apps are lured into a false sense of security where you feel safe to meet because you think you know the person’. Though there is no official Australian data analysis on dating-app related sexual assaults, NSW police have confirmed that one in every five sexual assaults occurred in Sydney after an arrangement via a dating app.
A New Type Of Sexual Offender
The man who attempted to rape *Lauren in the bathroom on their second date was charged in 2017 for assaulting her and for raping three other women.
One of these women was Paula. Paula and Hartland dated for three months, but when she realised that he was seeing other women she broke it off shortly after the breakup. Hartland then showed up at her apartment and raped her. Paula fought hard for justice, working with police for four long years to make sure this would never happen to another woman, but even after her perpetrator was charged, the system continued to fail Paula and all female dating app users as Hartland proceeded to setup profiles across various apps using fake names. Starting a fake account on Tinder is not hard to do, considering the fact that all you need to sign up is a phone number and email address.
Hartland admitted to the rapes and was convicted in 2018, but just before his sentencing Paula, who her parents said was ‘never the same after the incident‘ took her own life. Hartland was sentenced to 14 years and 9 months in jail. In his sentencing the Judge stated that dating apps had created a ‘fertile landscape in which predators can roam‘.
Joshua Paul Rini
Joshua Paul Rini raped two women at his home in Glebe in 2018, when discussing the case Superintendent Alf Sergi from Leichhardt Police Area Command said that;
‘The way in which people meet makes no difference when it comes to the issue of consent. The messaging about ‘consent’ is as equally consistent with dating apps as it is with any interaction that may potentially lead to sexual encounters. How you meet isn’t as relevant as the behaviour in person.’
Brett Taylor a twenty-five-year-old Sydney man was arrested and charged for raping and choking two women that he met on Tinder in 2018, one eighteen-year-old and one nineteen-year-old. Taylor has been released on bail, even though the court heard that he was still approaching women for sex on dating apps during COVID lockdown.
Bose, a thirty-three-year-old Melbourne man, lied to women on Tinder, telling them that he was once a member of the French military. In 2016 he raped a woman that he met on the app and when he was out on bail for her attack in 2017, he raped a second woman that he met via the app. He had also previously served two months in jail for threatening to kill a woman. Bose is now serving a twelve-year, six-month jail sentence.
A History Of Violence Against Women Using Tinder
Dr. Angela Jay met Paul Lambert on Tinder in August 2016, but broke off their relationship after six weeks of dating when he became alarmingly possessive.
In November 2016, Lambert, who was on parole at the time, hid inside her cupboard and waited for her to come home from work. When she did, he stabbed her eleven times and doused her in petrol. Dr Jay managed to escape and seek help from a neighbour. Lambert was later fatally shot by police after threatening them with a knife.
Today, Dr Jay is an advocate for ending Violence Against Women and is urging dating apps to update their safety policies and check user’s history for violence. When Dr Jay met Lambert on Tinder, she had no idea that he had ten restraining orders against him from five other women.
At the time of her attack, Lambert was on parole.
We are all familiar with the Gable Tostee balcony incident in 2014 where the Gold Coast man locked his Tinder date, Warriena Wright out on the balcony after a confrontation and she fell fourteen floors to her death.
Gable had recorded a large portion of the night and at one point had said “This is f***ing bullshit. You are lucky I haven’t chucked you off my balcony, you goddamn psycho little bitch”.
Tostee was found not guilty and in 2019 was back on Tinder using a different name.
The list of Tinder dates that ended in violence goes on – Grace Millane was strangled to death on a Tinder date in a New Zealand hotel, her body left on the floor of the room while her date lined up a Tinder date for the next day. In 2017, someone very close to me was on a Tinder date with a man who seemed fun at first until she returned to his house and he turned violent, throwing plates and swearing at her.
When she attempted to leave he tried to set her dress on fire. Thankfully the man’s roommate arrived home and intervened.
He deleted his Tinder account but a few weeks later was active again.
These violent incidents are not isolated. Tinder and other dating apps on the market need to take more responsibility for the safety of their users. It could be as simple as users uploading a photo ID for verification. Other critics of Tinder’s safety policies have suggested a mandatory consent module to be completed before using the app.
Whatever it is, it needs to be done quickly before more women are abused, sexually assaulted, violently attacked or murdered.
If you have been abused by someone that you met on a dating app and would like to contribute to the ABC’s crowdsourced investigation you can do so here.
If you have been sexually assaulted or are in immediate danger call 000 otherwise if the incident has just happened and it is safe to do so you can go straight to your local police station or your closest hospital.
Alternatively, you can call:
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) offers confidential support and counselling and are available 24/7.
The Blue Knot Foundation offer support over the phone on 1300 657 380 or via email between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm, seven days a week.
You can also call the Sexual Assault Counselling Australia hotline on 1800 211 028 on chat online here.