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tv   Witness  LINKTV  January 16, 2022 9:00pm-9:31pm PST

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♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ avani dias: what dating apps have you guys been on? both: tinder. speaker 1: grindr, tinder, just those two. speaker 2: she's talking about bumble as well.
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speaker 1: oh, bumble, yeah, that's the one. speaker 3: hinge, bumble, what ones do you? speaker 4: tinder. speaker 5: i think tinder is a little bit more of a casual relationship thing. speaker 6: tinder. speaker 7: tinder. [laughing] avani: as you're watching this, millions of people are looking for partners on tinder, the dating app that's changed how an entire generation meets new people. speaker 8: yeah, i met my current partner on tinder, yeah. avani: how long have you guys been together? speaker 8: over two years. speaker 9: i know some friends that got married from tinder, and they're really happy. speaker 10: that's the future i guess, you know? it's not so much like, you can't meet a girl at a bar anymore, it's all on apps. avani: this catalogue of love interests at our fingertips has obvious appealbut the app that's made meeting up with strangers the new normal is hiding a sinister problem. beth: he looked down on me, and he just said straight-faced
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to me, "well, you're not allowed to leave until i cum." brooke: he, yeah, then pulled his pants off, and just sort of--just went for it, and just raped me. emily: it was horrifying, it was so terrifying to know that this man hadn't stopped what he was doing. avani: one of the top earning apps in the world has created a playground for sex offenders, leaving victims neglected. emily: it makes me mad that this platform is making money off of people that are being hurt, and then they can't even respond properly when people are hurt. what are you doing with your money? avani: tonight on "foucorners,n a joint investigation with "hack" on triple j, we look at the dating
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app tinder and how it's built a business model that exposes its users to assault, and how it's allowing serial sexual predators to thrive on its platform. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ avani: since it was launched in 2012, tinder has been downloaded more than 100 million times around the world. last year it clocked almost $1.7 billion in revenue. ♪♪♪ steve dean: tinder is the shooting star. it is far and away the most used dating app,
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and the most lucrative dating app. it, i believe, outgrosses even netflix in the app store. the user interface design is geed to get us hooked and to keep us swiping into oblivion. tinder made it so easy to meet up that it actually was less safe, because you spent way less time vetting people. avani: do you guys feel safe on dating apps? speaker 11: yeah, i--personally, i think it's probably if you're a woman, you might find it's not as safe, or you don't feel as safe. speaker 12: i still need to be cautious, so i still need to, like, send my friend's location, i still need to think about, like, my reputation after that. so, in that sense it is safe in a way, but the fact that i have to think about these things wouldn't make it completely safe. speaker 13: the problem with dating apps isn't that they're dating apps. the interaction that you have with them, meeting up with people, it's that people use this the wrong way. i know people that have met through tinder, they've met amazing people, but unfortunately, for a lot of
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people, it doesn't end the way they want it to be. avani: be concerned, not alarmed? speaker 14: chuck your headband on, get in there, and have a crack. avani: that's ridiculous to me. speaker 15: start talking about it. speaker 16: eww, that's gross. speaker 17: on this existential level. avani: hello, avani dias with you for "hack." ten years ago, no one had even heard of dating apps. now, it's the number one way australians meet their partners, but it's not all weddings and tinder babies. avani: in march, we asked triple j "hack" listeners to tell us about their experiences with dating apps and sexual assault. avani: so, we're launching a major investigation today to find out what's going on, and we want your help to share your stories. if you've ever had an experience on a dating app that made you feel unsafe, i'd love to know what happened. get in touch on the "hack" website. avani: more than 400 people responded, 175 of them told us they'd experienced a sex offense by someone they'd met on tinder.
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brooke was one of those people who thought she'd found her match on tinder. ♪♪♪ brooke: when i first got on tinder, i guess i was trying to find love or to try and find someone to be in a relationship with. i first matched with him in 2017, i was in my last year of uni. i guess my first impression was that he seemed like a really chill, down-to-earth kind of guy. harea to live with his grandma, hand help take care of her,the and so i was like, oh, well, he's obviously, like,
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a really kind, caring guy. when he asked if i wanted to, you know, go back to his place to have tea on the second date, i was like, yup, sure, and we had tea and chilled, and then i went home. ♪♪♪ brooke: the next time we caught up, he picked me up from my place, and we went for a drive outside of galong and into sort of, like, this sort of really rural town, where there was, like, no streetlights, no nothing. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ avani: the man pulled up in a secluded spot. when brooke got nervous and asked to be taken home, he threw her phone out the car window. ♪♪♪
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brooke: once the phone smashed, i was like, oh crap, now i'm in the middle of, you know, nowhere, like i didn't actually know where we were, we were just sort of, like, out-bush, and with no working phone, no way to message any friends or anything, and no actual idea where i was. and then it was sort of like, oh okay, this is an episode from, like, a true crimes show, where you can't actually phone for help, and then it's like, something bad may happen, may not happen, and i guess unfortunately for me that's just where something bad did end up happening. avani: the man persuaded brooke to get into the backseat of the car. brooke: he pinned me down, i was like, i don't wanna do this, you know, like, i'm not in the mood, and then when he pulled
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my shorts off, i was like, no, like, i'm really not in the mood, i don't want this, and he just didn't say anything. he, yeah, then pulled his pants off, and just sort of-- just went for it and just raped me. ♪♪♪ brooke: i was trying not to cry because it was so painful, but i also didn't want to show him any emotion, because clearly, you know, he was getting off on having all the power. in my head, it was also, you don't know where you are or how you're getting home, and this is what he wants and this is what it would take for you to get home, then you need to do it. after he was done, he gave me a serviette from the console of
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his car to clean myself up, 'cause there was blood, and then i just put my shorts on and climbed through and sain the passenger seat and just didn't talk, and then he drove me home. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ avani: the next morning brooke decided to report the attack to tinder, but she says the man had blocked her by using the unmatch function, deleting their entire chat history. brooke: i searched for his name, but it didn't me up, so obviously he had gone into our messages, and you can unmatch, so that means that the conversation is gone, and i didn't even have a picture of him. i was definitely gutted, because i was like,
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well, this was the only way to identify who he was and what he did, and he's taken that away and just completely sort of erased any evidence of himself. i guess that was one of, probably the main reason that i didn't go to the police was because there was--i didn't have his number, i didn't know his last name, i didn't have any photos or proof that we'd even spoken to each other before, it would be like i'd just picked a random guy out, almost, and said that he'd done this. avani: as we sifted through our public callout, this was something that came up again and again, perpetrators who had unmatched or blocked their victims on tinder after sexually assaulting them, meaning they were unable to be traced.
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narrator: "he raped me twice while i cried and begged him to stop. i wanted to report him to tinder, but he unmatched me within an hour, so i had no way of bringi up his ofile again. narrator: "he ended up trying to take the condom off without me knowing. i couldn't report him on tinder because had already blocked me." narrator: "i lost consciousness as he choked me out. he was penetting me digitally when i regained consciousness. he had unmatched, and his profile disappeared." brooke: it's like they're sort of beating the stem where they can just sort of reoffend,l these other new girls who don't have any idea of their sort of behaviors, which is just-- it's heartbreaking, really, that all these girls are going thugh it. steve: the feature which was designed with benevont intent, iyou can just unmatch them and snever have to think about them, again and nevesee them again. so, it was designed, essentially, with victims in mind, but the fact that perpetrators are now getting
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a little bit wise to this and realizing that it's their way of escaping any kind of accountability, that's just unacceptable. avani: steve dean is a consultant to the dating app industry. steve: i think that's actual one of the most frustrating components of the current tinder and dating app experience, and i don't think that that should ever be a possibility, thasomeone can simply escape their bad behavior by blocking the person they just abused. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ avani: clinical forensic doctor janine rowse works closely with police in assessing victims of sexual violence, and two years ago she detected an increase in sexual assaults resulting from dating apps.
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janine rowse: i started noticing that some of the sexual assault forensic examinations i was doing, the victims were telling me that they had met their offender through a dating app. avani: so, she began documenting cases. janine: most of these sexual assaults were occurring on the first face-to-face meeting between parties, and the majority were occurring at the alleged offender's home. i think we are really only seeing the tip of the iceberg. i think there are some additional barriers to these sexual assaults being reported, and i think the real number that's occurring is much greater than what we're seeing. ♪♪♪ avani: despite the growing problem, there are no national figures on the number of sexual assaults facilitated by dating apps.
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in late 2019, new south wales police launched a project looking at different ways to address sexual assault, with links to dating apps being one small part of it. stuart smith: what we now have, obviously, with the dating app is a new emerging way to meet, and people need to understand victims, you know, people that are gonna use these systems need to understand that you're meeting someone, the dating app may draw you into a false sense of security where you're happy to meet and you think you know the person better than you do. avani: all you need to sign up for tinder is a phone number and an email, and with no id verification, it's almost impossible to know if the person you're messaging is who they say they are. janine: so, i think if you are gonna use these dating apps, then by all means, swipe right, but do so with caution.
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be aware that online communication with someone means that they're effectively still a real life stranger. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ emily: i wanted to meet new people, i wanted to date, i wanted new experiences. all of my friends had been using it at the time, and they all said it was amazing, and it was a perfect, and honestly, probably the only way at the moment to meet people. i remember i matched with him on a saturday morning. i remember when his profile first came up, that he was incredibly buff. he was a firefighter, he was on the hot firefighter's calendar i remember seeing that a thinking, oh my god, that's impressive, that's, i guess, a respectable job,
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that's something that people think, oh my gosh, that's a firefighter, he's a good person. avani: then they started messaging. emily: he wanted very explicit videos and photos straight away, and i felt nervous, i didn't feel okay about it. i told him pretty much straight away. he said, "oh, it won't be like that, i'm sorry," you know, "if we meet up, we don't even have to do anything. we can just hang, doesn't matter, it'll be okay, it'll be fine." avani: the next morning, emily agreed to meet the firefighter at his apartment near the beach. emily: basical as soon as we went into his house, he was very forthright with what he wanted. he wanted to have sex, he wanted to take my clothes off, he wanted to do the things to me that i said i didn't feel comfortable with, and then he just began to have sex with me.
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♪♪♪ emily: it wasn't something that i wanted, it wasn't something that said he could do. he just started to rape me. and i didn't say no because i was completely petrified. he was so rough that the only thing that i could say was, "ow," over and over again, and he was--he just didn't stop. halfway through when he was assaulting me, he picked up his phone from the table and said, "just hold on, i just need to take some photos." and he kept his hand holding me down as i tried to squirm and get out of the camera lens. avani: he raped emily three times that morning, filming her each time. emily: he was so forceful and so rough and hard that it was
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so painful, and following, i bled for days, there was blood everywhere. avani: four days later, emily walked into her local police station and reported . emily says police told her that because she hadn't explicitly said no during the assault, there was little they could do. she says police told her they would get a warrant to get the videos of the sexual assault off the man's phone. instead, they went to his home and gave him a warning. emily: it didn't seem like anything was gonna happen. they didn't do their jobs to check that this man wasn't gonna hurt anyone else. if they had gotten his phone, they might have seen that-- he might have kept those videos, i have no idea if he still has
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those videos, what he does with those videos. avani: emily was told by new south wales police that officers had gone to this alleged perpetrator's house and told him he needed to delete this video. was that the case? stuart: look, i just can't go into the specific case, but i will certainly follow that matter up. i understand there was interaction with the offend-- or the alleged offender in this case. i just can't comment further at this time. avani: our understanding is there was no warrant to search this man's phone to get the video as part of the investigation, why would that be? stuart: look, again, we're talking about specifics of a case. you know, in terms of--and specifically we're talking about a dating app, you know, offending that may have involved a filming, you know, privately of another individual, which is a different offense than sexual assault, yup. so, look, all i can is i'm happy to take this case to have a look at it and come back to you.
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avani: emily says she later reported the man to tinder. emily: it took me a long time to even try and find how to report someone. i had to scroll through, and the website wasn't clear, and eventually i just had to google "report tinder" and find it. i wrote down his name, i wrote down his age, i wrote down where he lived, i wrote down his occupation, everything, and said this man is dangerous. this man is a threat and will hurt people if given the chance. and i just got an automated response, just a refresh of the pe saying thanks for submitting, and i never heard anything else. avani: how d you feel just getting, like, just a random automatic response like th? emily: it felt like a waste of time. it just felt like why bother? why did i bother? like, nothing is gonna happen from this if it's just an automated response. avani: after emily discovered he'd been sending abusive
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messages to other women he met on tinder, she reported him again. this time she did get a response from tinder, telling her the man's account had been removed from the app. emily: it shouldn't take more than one woman to take someone off a dating app if he has assaulted someone. why is it so hard? why did nothing happen the last time? it makes me mad that this platform is making money off of people that are being hurt, and then they can't even respond properly when people are hurt. what are you doing with your money? avani: in response to our public callout, 48 people told us that, like emily, they also reported a sexual offense to tinder. of those, only 11 said they received a response.
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narrator: "i contacted tinder after blocking this guy and received a generic stock standard, bullsh-- response. i contacted them again, wanting to know what the follow up was or would be, and received no response. this was distressing." narrator: i got a generic response that they were looking into it, but that i would not be informed of the outcome. narrator: "no response. 'thanks. we can't tell you what happens from here, but we take this seriously.'" rosalie gillett: in my research, the women described receiving this message, but they didn't actually receive anything to follow up from that, and that made them feel like they were nored and nothing had actually been done to address that problem. avani: rosalie gillett from the queensland university of technology spent years researching women's safety on tinder. she says the company's failure to respond to reports of sexual
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assault is creating an online environment that further enables perpetrators. rosalie: this is really quite significant, because it tells those women who have made their reports that they're actually not justified, and that they weren't serious enough to actually warrant a report, and that's also really dangerous because it tells users who are engaging in that harassing and abusive behavior that it is acceptable, d they don't need to change anything on that platform. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ beth: i essentially started using it to meet people for casual sex, 'cause it was private, and it was to myself,
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and i could choose who i liked the look of or liked the sound of. initially, it was very much just the ego boost, you know. just, like, seeing who would match with you and who found you maybe attractive, or i was quite funny in my profile, i tried to be funny. swiping through people on tinder almost feels like a game. both: no. beth: very picky. oh god, oh god. beth: i saw this guy on tinder, and i thought he was reasonably attractive, not outstandingly in my opinion, but a nephew or something like that, and you know,ssumably, like, i loved that, i thought that was really cute. and we matched and instantly started chatting. i think maybe after a month or so of just being very casual,
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like, hey, how are you, that type of thing, it got a bit more flirtatious. avani: after messaging for six months on and off, this man asked beth over to his place. beth: and i opened the door, and immediately i just noticed he was huge, like, a lot bigger than he looked on his profile, definitely not as attractive as his profile. but as soon as i wked in the door, there was no conversation, essentially it was, "come to the bedroom now," and he leaded me in that direction. we then started to have sex, and progressively it got rougher as it went on. there was a moment in the sex where he was pushing my head so far into the bed that my glasses were coming up to my face, and i felt like they were about to brea and that was when i just asked to stop, and then he stopped,
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and i just said, i don't think i really wanna do this anymore, like, m--i think i might go home. d he jus-he looked down on me, and he just said straight-faced to me, "well, you're not allowed to leave until i cum." and in that moment, it was really, like-- i was--i think i was just shocked, and it was a real moment where i felt like i didn't have any options. so, the sex continued, and when it finished, i immediately got up and got changed, and i asked for a glass ofater just so i could get him away from me. i sort of noticed on the kitchen table,ust sort of between me and him was a really large knife, and he sort of moved the knife close to my neck and thenust started laughing. i felt like i was in some real serious trouble, and i was really helpless in that situation,
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because he was so much bigger than me. avani: beth got out of his house and ran to her car. beth: the second i got in the car, i burst into tears and like, it wasn't just a, you know, a sob to myself, it was like wailin hysterical crying. avani: betsays s pulled over, opened tinder, and used the app's function to report h for sexual assault. th: and the responserom tinder was--it was an automated response immediately where they sort of said we'll look into this, and we'll get back to you, but tre was no follow up, there was no nothing. avani: did you ever hear from tinder after that? beth: no, no.
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rosalie: one of the women who participated in my research, she was actually--she reported a man who had engaged in really harassing and abusive behavior towards her. she reported him to the platform, but a couple of days after this experience, she actually saw that the man was available still on tinder, and she even had the ability to match with him again. and so you know, this suggested to her that tinder really hadn't done anything about that issue. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ avani: in 2020, the loneliness and isolation of covid-19 lockdowns have meant more people are desperate for company. paid tinder subscriptions increased almost 20%
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in the year to june. the company says tinder is the highest grossing non-gaming app in the world. ♪♪♪ avani: and tinder's built to be addictive. steve: it makes it so that you're always on this hamster wheel, you're always stuck trying to see who's next, who else is available. it just gets stuck in swiping mode, and then they'll hit their end of the day where they have no more swipes left, and maybe they'll pay for more. avani: tinder is a free app, but it makes money by getting you to pay for extra features like boosting your profile for 30 minutes to increase your chance of a match or allowing you to see who's liked you. users who don't pay are bombarded with notifications encouraging them to become a paid subscriber.

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