Ask Stacey Koniaras about her experience returning to the dating scene after divorce, and her answer is simple – and striking.
- Women on dating apps say they were abused for simply saying no, which experts called “rejection violence”
- They say its most common form is verbal abuse, but in extreme cases it can be physical and even fatal.
- Behavior change programs and new features in dating apps are helping change, but experts say there’s work to be done
“I was called a bitch and a whore,” the 47-year-old said said the nail artist.
“I was told: ‘I wish you misery and ill health for your life and your family.’
“You name it and I was called it.”
For Warrnambool’s mom, it was a crass introduction to the world of online dating after coming out of a long-term relationship four years ago.
What struck her were not the remarks themselves but the disproportionate reactions to the polite rebuffs.
“His reaction was extreme [and over] the top, ”she said.
“I would block him, then he would open another email account – calling me, calling my friends.”
She was forced to obtain an injunction to force her to stop.
“It was quite stressful.”
Ms Koniaras is among women over 35 who have reported cases of severe hostility from some men in connection with a triple j call hack on dating apps.
A joint Triple j Hack and Four Corners survey in October revealed that Tinder does not respond adequately to survivors of sexual assault and does not allow rapists to cover their tracks.
Academic Lily Thacker, an assistant professor at US-based Eastern Kentucky University, coined the term “rejection violence” to describe the phenomenon.
She has documented the physically violent reactions to rejection around the world, ranging from women stabbed and shot to gang rapes just for saying no.
The numbers show just how common this verbal and textual violence has become.
A 2020 study from the US-based Pew Research Center found that nearly half of all women aged 35 to 49 who used online dating had someone to continue the contact after saying they ‘they weren’t interested – nearly double the rate for men.
More than a third of the women had received an offensive name.
Although the behavior has been documented at all ages, Ms Thacker said online abuse has become “the norm” for young women.
But, she said, it still shocked the older generations who might be more likely to call her.
Excessive reactions form the violence of rejection
In Australia, a 2020 University of Melbourne study found that some young men underestimate the severity of the impact of digital dating abuse on women.
Some women are trying to change this, exposing this behavior through websites like ByeFelipe.
Her Instagram page, which has 470,000 subscribers, allows the public to submit screenshots of abusive texts and messages that women receive “from guys who turn hostile when rejected or ignored.”
“The number of posts on these accounts is simply staggering,” Ms. Thacker said.
In Australia, Facebook pages like Bad Melbourne Dates document similar experiences.
At its extreme, the violence of rejection can be catastrophic.
In 2014, mass gunman murdered six people and injured 14 others on University of California campus, citing the rejection of women as motivation in his manifesto.
“It was a penultimate, really unfortunate example of what can happen when these kinds of ideas are allowed to flow freely,” Ms Thacker said.
“Right, honor” as motivations
Ms Thacker believes that some men behave this way because they felt entitled to benefit from the time, attention and body of women combined with traditional ideas of honor.
“They think if a woman rejects them it is a mark against their honor,” she said.
“The only way to get that back and regain his place as a dominant man is to be violent.”
She said that these men usually already had a low perception of their masculinity.
A subsequent rejection of a woman was then felt to be an existential threat.
Alistair Jones has spent years leading men’s behavior change programs, counseling and family mediation sessions.
Now head of ACT’s Everyman program, which offers a range of specialist services for men, Mr Jones said overreacting to rejection was often a sign of borderline personality disorder or disorder. the narcissistic personality.
“They spend a lot of their life angry,” he said. “This is his problem, his problem, the system problem.”
He said online dating has made it easier for men to behave this way because they can remain anonymous.
He believed the behavior stemmed from some men being uncomfortable with helplessness in the face of rejection.
“The very sense of self is put to the test,” he said.
Everyman program host Simon Port said many of their clients don’t realize verbal abuse is a form of abuse, even though it never gets physical.
“They don’t always see the consequences of raising their voice,” he said.
“But when we’re verbally abusive, we put people down. People feel worthless, scared.
“For many men, this is a revelation.”
How to deal with disturbing behavior
Ms Thacker said tackling these toxic behaviors meant examining portrayals of masculinity in mass media and in the home.
“Men don’t just wake up one morning and have that idea in their heads, it’s put there and then it’s reinforced,” she said.
“The standard set for men in so many cultures is unbelievably unobtainable.”
Mr Jones said that in Australia traditional notions of masculinity were problematic – but they were being challenged.
“The big problem with these particular presentations is getting people to realize that they have them,” he said.
There is a long waitlist for his service and similar programs nationwide, with limited programs available that target single men in the dating world.
In the long term, Mr Jones said much earlier intervention was needed.
“The patterns are established in early childhood,” he said.
Dating apps on the move to verify identities
In December, Match Group, owner of Tinder and Hinge, ordered a full review of its “sexual misconduct reporting, moderation and response processes.”
In a statement, Tinder Australia told the ABC that it has added a number of security features over the past year, including the introduction of security-focused photo verification technology in Australia.
It also added a feature asking users if a particular message was bothering them, the company said.
In a statement, Bumble said there are a number of features in the app that allow users to hide, block and report users who violate its terms.
He also used a mix of artificial intelligence and moderators to verify photos and identities as well as crack down on unsolicited nude images, he said.
“We recently rolled out a new feature that allows our users to request that their matches verify their profile,” the company said in a statement.
Ms Koniaras is now in a relationship after meeting someone “the old fashioned way”.
She speaks in the hope that it can help change attitudes.
“I find it really sad that women are always treated the way we are,” she said.
Watch Tinder: Predator’s Playground on iview here.