If you’re a young woman on the dating scene, it’s hard to miss Bumble.
The honey coloured app is marketed as a female-friendly alternative to options like Tinder, and claims to be “levelling the playing field” for women by getting its female users to “challenge outdated heterosexual norms” and message matches first.
“There’s no equality without respect,” its website says; “that’s where all healthy relationships start.”
But, for some of its users Bumble hasn’t lived up to it’s female-friendly promise.
As part of our dating apps investigation, users have told Hack that meeting dates through Bumble has led to incidents of stalking, sexual assault and rape.
And that after they’ve reported incidents of stalking and sexual assault to the company they’ve received little to no response.
“I got a generic response”
When Stacey went on a date with a guy she met on the app, she wasn’t expecting she’d eventually have to threaten to get the police involved to keep him away.
“Everything kind of went well on the first date, a few drinks and a few laughs,” Stacey says.
After another date and a bit of back and forth, Stacey ultimately decided she wasn’t keen on taking things any further.
“He kind of just sent me a barrage of messages, which weren’t pleasant and then I blocked him because I was feeling uncomfortable,” she told Hack.
“I blocked his number, then a number comes through just a random mobile number on my phone, and I just had a feeling it was him on another phone which it was because I didn’t answer it and then I got a message on WhatsApp saying ‘why did you block my number’?”
“It kept going and I ended up giving up responding to him just because I was like, look, nothing I can say is gonna help, he’s still being aggressive.”
Stacey thought that was the end of it, until she arrived at work a month and a half later.
“A colleague of mine when I rock up to work says, ‘Hey, a guy came in asking for you and you bought a coffee’.”
“And she was like, ‘obviously, I didn’t tell him that when you’re working next because he did ask’.”
The next day, Stacey was serving a customer on the shop floor.
“He’s just like, ‘Hi. I just was hoping to have a chat to you just seeing how you going,’”
“He knew exactly where it was on the floor. So he’d been watching me, I feel waiting for the perfect moment because it was a really busy day,”
“After that I was really shaken up and I messaged him saying it’s so inappropriate that you came into my place of work. Then [I said to him] if you do again, I will call the police.”
“As soon as he did that I reported it to Bumble,” she says.
“I got a generic response saying ‘ ‘thanks for submitting. We take these matters seriously’. I never got a follow up.”
How Bumble deals with reports of stalking
Bumble declined an interview with Hack, but sent a statement in response to our questions.
“If someone is reported for stalking behavior, they are automatically blocked and then put under investigation by our team.”
“We can assure you that once our team receives a report, they review it as soon as possible and take the necessary actions based on the report given.”
“At minimum, the person’s profile will be blocked – and if necessary, the person will be banned from using Bumble,” the statement said.
“In this case, it is most likely that the users who were reported were blocked immediately.”
For Stacey, just getting an automated follow up from Bumble reaffirmed why she hadn’t reported when she was raped by another date she met on the app a few years earlier.
“I was like, Ah, is that it?”
“It made me feel well, this is the reason why so many people don’t report it, because these are the responses you get met with disappointing lackluster responses that really didn’t take into account your feelings or really care about the safety of the users,” she says.
Bumble says “the best way to bring our attention to an account that sets off any red flags, is to use our reporting option within the Bumble app.”
But that wasn’t the case for Jamie*.
“I saw him repeatedly on Bumble”
After chatting for a few weeks after meeting on Bumble, Jamie met up with a guy to head to a gig.
“We jumped in a cab, and when we got in the cab, he said oh we just need to go via my place because I just need to pick up something for the band,” Jamie says.
“As we’re kind of getting closer out of the city, closer to Brunswick, he asks the taxi driver to stop at a petrol station and I just thought he was buying cigarettes or something.”
“We kept going and got out at his place and I just said that I would wait out the front while he went in to grab whatever it was he was grabbing and he was like, no, no, no, come in.”
But once they were inside, things changed.
“He kind of came on really full on and yeah, like started kissing me,” Jamie says.
“He took the thing out of his pocket that he bought in the service station and it was a packet of condoms, which was when I think the alarm bells kind of started going off because that was very much not my intention, but clearly was his.”
“I said ‘Oh, you know, shouldn’t we get going’ or like, ‘shouldn’t we get moving? Don’t you need to take this thing to the band with a gig?”
“I just sort of pulled back, ‘You’re making me feel really uncomfortable, like, let’s go’, I probably repeated that maybe five or six times during the course of the next 10 minutes.”
“[He] unbuttoned my pants and pushed his hand down there and then at that point, I was like, you know what I’m leaving.”
“When I got home, I blocked his mobile phone number and reported him to Bumble and unmatched him on there as well.”
But after reporting him, Jamie says they got no response from Bumble.
Despite reporting, Jamie has still seen him come up on the app multiple times.
“Every time I saw his profile come up, I would always report him” Jamie says.
“Usually just like a one liner, this person sexually assaulted me and never got any kind of even automated response from them.”
“It feels pretty disappointing, the fact that you keep seeing that person’s profile after you’ve kind of unmatched and blocked, but it almost feels unsafe.”
Jamie’s sister has also seen – and reported him – on the app multiple times.
“She thinks she’s told them maybe six or seven or eight times and every single time she reports him as well and the same response, she hasn’t heard anything back from the app.”
User experience not living up to female-friendly marketing
Since Hack’s investigation with 4 Corners aired back in October, Bumble has changed its unmatch feature which we discovered perpetrators were using to erase evidence and cover their tracks.
Bumble told Hack that when its users report incidents of sexual assault and harassment “the reported user is immediately blocked and their profile is disabled while our team reviews the report.”
“Upon conclusion of the investigation, the reported user will be banned from using Bumble if they are determined responsible for sexual misconduct.”
The company says profiles reported by multiple users are “completely banned from using the app,” and that once a user has reported someone “they are immediately blocked from seeing that person again and the report is reviewed by our team as the reporter user goes under investigation,”
But Jamie says that isn’t how things have played out for them.
“I would say their response to my experience has not reflected that ethos.”
“I really don’t want to see this person, pretty uncomfortable feelings come up when I see his face.”
“It would be nice to at least get a response.”
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