I Was Raped. Then I Got Kicked Off of Hinge.
The author details a sexual assault that got her—not her assailant—booted from the platform.
I have downloaded, deleted and redownloaded Hinge numerous times, as many of us have. I met a range of people there, and went on a fair number of dates. Towards the latter half of 2019, I matched with a boy who seemed to check all the boxes for me. He was a feminist—or at least called himself one—and was interested in learning about the wider debates surrounding being one. At the time, I didn’t mind the task of educative labor. He was a law student in the same building where I studied liberal arts. We met for coffee one day and he ended up coming over afterwards to unbox my new laptop with me. We met again whenever we could for dates at bookstores, cafes and the other usual cliché places. Since he stayed with his parents, most of the time he would come to my house if we weren’t going out.
A few days after we had agreed to become a couple and had both uninstalled Hinge, he invited me over while his family was out. We ended up making out, and eventually we were both naked, which was normal for us. Suddenly, he penetrated my vagina with his fingers. It was not expected, not something he asked me about before doing and not something I had anticipated. He knew about my hypersensitivity and repulsion around the act. We had had extensive conversations, and I had made him aware of my history of abuse and my general discomfort with sexual contact—specifically my anxiety around intercourse, or broadly, about any contact with my vagina. The fact that this was the first time, or that I had consented to something else, didn’t matter. This was rape.
When he inserted his fingers, I recoiled, closed my body and started crying. I did not know why, and the physical pain from being unprepared for his touch was only a part of the reason. I put on my clothes, he apologized and after some time, I left. I apologized profusely for the way I reacted and blamed myself for my hypersensitive nature.
How I Realized I Was Raped
We continued to date for around two months, until we broke up around New Year’s. He ended the relationship because he believed that my activism did not allow me to center around his presence. I believed that the relationship was only a part of my life. The instance of rape was only a part of the larger pattern of problematic behaviors that he took part in, all while claiming to be a feminist and having his every sexist action dismissed as a “mistake,” owing to a lack of awareness. There were several instances of such actions that made me uncomfortable, like when he flicked my nipple when we were just sitting around. All of these actions made me uncomfortable, and I constantly told him why they were wrong, or simply that they made me uncomfortable, and in a relationship between two people, that is not acceptable.
After several months of processing, I began to understand the gaslighting within the relationship and understand what had happened to me. I wanted to speak out, and most importantly, I wanted to tell him that he was wrong. I had come to understand the rape as rape, and realized that it was not my fault for crying or reacting the way I did. I was only able to understand and process the rape because of friends around me who were willing to call a spade a spade and not sugarcoat it or allow me weaker defenses. They affirmed me and told me that I had been raped, which was in some ways empowering and better than the dismissive attitude with which I had been treating myself. I unblocked him and messaged him about to tell him that what had happened was rape—that he had raped me. He blocked me without responding.
I’m Not an Ideal Victim, but That Shouldn’t Matter
I had reinstalled Hinge at this point, but with the lockdown happening, I wasn’t really using it. Around this time, a new #MeToo wave began, and a student from his college was spearheading a campaign in which she was publicly naming aggressors from the law school. I spoke to friends and asked them to share screenshots in which I described in excruciating detail what I had gone through. A few friends questioned me for different reasons. What if he takes legal action for posting these stories? (He could not, given the laws of the country we were in. Action could only be taken against the primary author, which was me.) They told me that it didn’t sound like rape, or that the act wasn’t violent enough, and pointed out that he stopped when I pulled away. Of course, by legal definition, I was raped, because there was a lack of consent, and consent for one action does not imply consent for another. But suddenly I was put in an uncomfortable position of being asked to prove my abuse, which I could not do.
I approached the activist student who had started the campaign and asked her to share the screenshots as well. She agreed to do that, expressed her sympathy, solidarity and called him out for being “pseudo-woke.” The screenshots in question contained details of most of what I had gone through with him, including the gaslighting and other sexist behaviors. Despite all of this, she messaged me after posting the stories and asked me what exactly happened. I was in a frenzy myself and did not really understand how this kind of calling out worked. I told her everything that happened and shared screenshots of my conversations with him from the day of the incident. The screenshots were of me apologizing profusely for the way I had reacted. He and I had spoken mostly in person about the rest of it.
She immediately took back her unconditional support and told me that this made it seem like a completely different story, that I had not been completely up front. She told me that she was scared as well because he was threatening legal action. She took down the stories and posted something that was in his defense, basically stating that every story has two sides and the “facts must come out.”
I was not an ideal victim, and therefore I was not worthy of support or being completely and unapologetically included in her campaign. She added the story to her Instagram highlights, where it stayed for about two months until I had her take it down in August.
Hinge Kicked Me Off, but Let Him Stay
The “legal action” he chose to take against me was to report my account on Hinge, which I only realized much later because I wasn’t using the app. He publicly and privately threatened legal action in a desperate attempt to prove his own innocence, which fed into his “woke feminist” persona that people willingly accepted. I was blocked from the platform, and still do not have access to my account. I was removed from a public space for not keeping quiet about what I had to go through. A rapist is allowed to continue using the app, while I have been blocked.
When I requested my account be restored, Hinge sent me an elaborate process to have the request further reviewed and maybe restore the account. A rape survivor has to jump through hurdles after a harrowing experience because dating apps lack any substantial or policy or actual mechanism of dealing with such instances. Simply put, for a space like Hinge, calling out rape seems to be worse than actual rape.