As someone with lifelong allergies and general autoimmune issues, I picture my white blood cells less as violent men with knives and more as crazed backwoods farmers, just sitting on the porch with an iced tea and intermittently hallucinating and screaming about varmints as they spray buckshot wildly in every direction. I mean, glod help the poor bastard pathogen if they ever get their hands on a real one but I do wish they aimed better.
I read a Christian romance novel that had clearly been written as a regular romance novel and then the author just find/replaced "sex" with "ice skating" when she sold it to a Christian publishing house and it. was. hilarious. These people in the wild west getting all turned on by each others' bodies with luscious descriptions of same, followed by him lifting her into the air as they skated around the frozen pond. Her breath caught. She had never had a man touch her like that before. Her breath came faster, in gasps. They were flying, skating together, higher and higher, as he lifted her towards a feeling of fulfillment, completion.
And then once in every chapter, I assume by contractual mandate, she inserted randomly in a conversation, in a way that did not flow one single little bit but was a complete non sequitor, something about praying to Jesus. So it'd be like "But if I can't make enough money to pay the mortgage --" "But maybe if you marry Bill, you can pay it" "Bill is a horrible roughneck!" She prayed to Jesus to forgive her for thinking such evil thoughts, and to open her hear to Bill as a child of God. "At least he's a hot roughneck!" "No! I'll never be interested in Bill!" Then she and Bill go ice skating, obviously.
It. Was. Amazing.
(I like Hemmingway okay a long as it's a dude alone on a boat or alone dealing with his WWI-induced PTSD in a post-fire forest with lots of grasshoppers, but as soon as there's one single, solitary woman involved, I'm out.)
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In the fall of 2018, Emily C. remembers telling Bumble that a man she met through its popular online dating platform had sexually assaulted her. The company didn’t respond, she says. Two months later, after seeing his profile photo on the app, she recalls the same report-no-response scenario playing out.
Emily C., who requested her last name be withheld to protect her privacy, has matched with this man on other dating apps. Companies use geolocation to find matches for users, and he lives within a 3-mile radius of her Brooklyn apartment. When she spotted him on Tinder that year, Emily says she alerted the platform. Again, she never received a response.
“I do not want other women to experience what I had to,” she wrote in October 2018 to Hinge, a third app that matched the pair. Emily provided screenshots of his profile to the company, stating, “Please, please, please remove him from the app.”
Hinge, unlike its counterparts, sent her an automatic receipt. “We take abuse reporting very seriously, and will be taking immediate steps,” the company said in its reply. Two months later, Emily contacted Hinge to inquire about her report — and she received the same message.
“It’s like being assaulted twice,” Emily, now 27, said of the companies’ lack of response to her report. “They failed their users. They’re not taking responsibility for what they created, which is a monster.”
Asked about Emily’s sexual assault report, a Bumble spokesperson declined to speak on the record with Columbia Journalism Investigations. After our inquiry, the company sent Emily an email thanking her for her bravery and recommending she contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline. The company’s email confirmed that the individual is no longer on the platform, and that he “will never be able to match with anyone on Bumble again.” Emily chose not to report the sexual assault to the police.
Tinder and Hinge, two popular dating platforms owned by Match Group, declined to comment.
We’ve spent more than 16 months examining the online dating industry. The investigation we published in December revealed the industry giant Match Group fails to screen for registered sex offenders on its free products — OkCupid, PlentyofFish and Tinder — despite doing so on its paid platforms. Our reporting has shown that some dating app users either received inadequate responses to their rape complaints or none at all.
Emily is among the nearly 200 women and men who filled out the confidential surveypublished with our story. Some, like Emily, say they reported their attack to the company but saw the user on the app again. Many more told us it never occurred to them to report an offline sexual assault to an online dating company. Or they didn’t realize a dating website could play a role in preventing such incidents.
Victim advocates we’ve spoken to say that these companies have a moral responsibility to enact safety measures to protect users. Popular dating platforms claim to take user safety seriously, but what should someone expect when he or she signs up for these services? We’ve compiled some questions and answers to help people better understand this often opaque sector.
Many people assume that you wouldn’t hold a bar responsible if someone was raped there, so why should a dating app be held to a different standard. Is this a fair comparison?
“That’s not true,” said Carrie Goldberg, a victims’ rights attorney who handles cases involving online abuse. “If my client was raped in a bar and there was any notice that the bartenders gave her too much to drink or she tried to ask them for help and they didn’t, I guarantee I’d have them as a defendant.”
In fact, bars have to check identification to avoid serving alcohol to minors and are at legal risk if a patron slips on a spill that they knew about. Yet such traditional tort liabilities typically don’t apply to online dating companies, experts note.
“If you set up a rusty playground, and people fall down and get tetanus, just because you can say most kids fall down and don’t get tetanus, that’s not an answer,” said Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, who specializes in constitutional and cyber law. “And yet that’s the system we’ve set up for internet companies.”
Should I expect a dating app to do anything about something that happened in real life?
Online dating companies have made a range of commitments to ensure user safety. The most popular sites say they have customer service teams to review users’ rape reports. They promise to block a bad actor once found. Match Group assures its users that it will check across Tinder, Hinge and all its brands to block an accused user’s account. Bumble declares a “strong stance” against abusive behavior on its site. Match, EHarmony and Sparks Network, which owns Zoosk, ChristianMingle and JDate, signed a best-practices statement in 2012 agreeing to establish a “rapid abuse reporting system” that “acknowledges receipt of the customer concerns.” Grindr makes no guarantees.
“Rapid response is important,” said Bethany Backes, assistant professor in the Violence Against Women Faculty Cluster Initiative at the University of Central Florida. Of the apps, she said, “Morally, they should take some sort of action.”
Our reporting has found that dating platforms don’t always live up to their words. Yet some experts, like Goldberg, argue that Americans should judge those apps harshly. “If you’ve designed a dangerous product and you’re making money off of it,” she said, “you can’t abdicate that responsibility.”
What do dating platforms say they’ll do when you report a rapist?
Platforms like Tinder, Hinge, PlentyofFish and Bumble say they will investigate a rape report, attempt to identify the accused user and block him or her. A police report is not required to alert the company. Match Group promises to check what it describes as a “centralized safety repository” across its brands to see if an accused user has other accounts. If so, according to Match Group, those accounts are blocked. Grindr makes no promises to block accounts.
Are there registered or convicted sex offenders on dating apps?
While most popular dating sites and apps do not screen against sex offender registries or conduct background checks, users are agreeing to approve these companies’ right to screen them at any time, according to the service agreements.
To sign up for apps like Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid and PlentyofFish, users must agree through the terms of service that they’ve never been convicted or pleaded no contest to a felony or sex crime. They also confirm they are not registered sex offenders. Bumble and Grindr don’t conduct criminal background checks on members.
Most people don’t read the terms of service before signing up for a dating app. Is there anything in there that I should know about?
When agreeing to the most popular dating apps’ service contracts, users are also agreeing to pursue any legal claim against the company through arbitration — an avenue to resolve disputes outside the regular court system. If a user does pursue such a claim, the service agreement states that he or she gives up the right to go to court and appear before a judge or jury. A user also gives up the right to participate in a class-action lawsuit.
Agreeing to the terms of service means that you’re promising to be at least 18 years old. But we know that underage users manage to access dating apps.
Does an online dating company have a legal responsibility to respond to user rape reports? If not, why would they bother to help?
Online dating services have used a provision in the 1996 federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) to deflect lawsuits claiming negligence for an incident of sexual assault. Known as CDA Section 230, the provision grants internet companies immunity from liability as publishers of third-party content. Section 230 was meant to encourage free speech online, while allowing moderation to occur. Some experts believe judges have applied CDA 230 so generously to company policy that immunity extends beyond dating app users’ content, which includes speech, images and videos.
“It’s largely been interpreted to tell internet companies like Match Group that they don’t have liabilities or obligations,” said Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, who specializes in constitutional and cyber law. “They’ve been able to avoid liability from harmful actions that result from facilitating users’ connections.”
Carrie Goldberg, a victims’ rights attorney who handles cases involving online abuse, notes that Match Group has fought state regulations and, as she put it, “proactively gets involved in litigations when they aren’t even named parties.” For example, Match Group, along with other industry groups, submitted a “friend of the court” brief supporting the dating app Grindr in a case involving one of Goldberg’s clients.
In the brief, the companies argued that Section 230 protections are “vital,” and without them the companies would “suffer significant harm or cease to exist altogether, as the costs of litigation and potential liability from the astounding amount of user content would be crippling.” They encouraged a broad interpretation for the promotion of users’ speech and ability “to police their own services for objectionable content.”
Legal experts have told us that without legislative reform or change in the courts’ interpretation, online dating companies won’t be held liable for harm occurring offsite, even when notified.
But while dating platforms have little legal responsibility, many have promised to ensure user safety. Match Group, the Dallas-based corporation that owns 45 online dating brands, states on its website that “we believe any incident of misconduct or criminal behavior is one too many.”
I’d like to report my sexual assault to the company but can’t figure out how. What can I do?
We’ve heard from some readers that they tried to report an offline incident but found navigating the company’s website or app difficult. We’ve created a guide on how to report here. We’ve also included resources on how to find a victim advocate and how to report to police after experiencing sexual assault, because reporting to the company is just one option.
people who reported an incident of sexual assault to an online dating company
dating app industry employees
law enforcement personnel
Screenshots of communication are particularly helpful.
Tell us if and how dating companies cooperate with police. We also want to hear from former and current employees who can help us learn more about company policy.
If you don’t fall into one of these categories, please consider sharing our survey with family and friends. Confidential tips can also be sent to email@example.com, or you can call 929-260-1654. We’d love to hear from you.
Know someone affected by sexual assault who needs confidential support? Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673. Or talk to a trained staff member from a nearby service provider.
Keith Cousins, Brian Edwards and Sarah Spoon contributed reporting.
If you lived in DC in August of 1964, you might have seen Julius Hobson driving through downtown with a cage full of enormous rats strapped to the roof of his station wagon. Frustrated by the city government’s refusal to do anything about the rat problem in Northeast and Southeast DC, and about the District’s more affluent citizens’ apathy about the issue, he said that if Southeast was having this problem, then Georgetown should share it too. Hobson caught “possum-sized rats” in Shaw and Northeast, and transported them up to Georgetown, promising to release the cage full of rats in the middle of the wealthy district unless the city government acted to curb the epidemic. Since he was, as a piece in The Washingtonian put it, “[a]ware that a DC problem usually is not a problem until it is a white problem,” he decided to go ahead and make it a white problem.
Every Saturday, Hobson would have almost a dozen huge rats on top of his car, hosting “rat rallies” where he would loudly reiterate his threats. He claimed to have a “rat farm” somewhere in the city, where he and his associates had “chicken coops” full of rats, and they vowed to release them all unless the government implemented rat extermination programs that would range outside of rich and white neighborhoods. What’s more, Hobson had done his research, and found that he had no legal obligation to keep the rats once he caught them, so he could not be prosecuted for following through on his threat. As many of the city officials (not to mention Congressmen) lived in Georgetown, this, naturally, sent the city government into a panic.
This was not the first or last time Hobson would use such gonzo tactics. Hobson saw a problem and attacked it head-on; his preferred technique for integrating businesses was to march up to the owner with several other activists behind him and demand the store integrate. When police brutality in DC towards minorities became a publically discussed issue in the 1960s, but there was no proof of their misconduct, Hobson simply built a long-range microphone (he had a degree in engineering) and drove around after police cars, collecting evidence.
The “rat project,” however, remains one of Hobson’s most famous tricks, for precisely the reason it succeeded: the press latched onto it like a rat onto a hunk of cheese. Newspapers across the District seized upon the story and embellished it. In the retelling, his rat-catching protest became “a caravan of cars with cages” or “two hundred dead rats” that Hobson had supposedly dumped in the middle of a Georgetown street. One recent article even claimed that “Hobson vowed to load rats into a truck and dump them in...the White House.” This was one of Hobson’s favorite techniques: doing something sensational and letting the press blow it out of proportion, making him seem to command much more power and influence than he actually did. In a later interview with the Washington Post, Hobson laughingly thanked the paper for being so helpful to his causes.
A lot of his activism, too, was based on what he described variously as “psychological warfare” and “bluffs." In reality, Hobson never had more than ten rats at a time. As Hobson later admitted: “Actually, what we were doing was drowning the hell out of those rats after dark.” In another instance, Hobson threatened to shut down Route 40, site of numerous segregated restaurants, with massive protests, when in reality Hobson would have at most fifty people at his disposal. As for his famous long-range microphone, Hobson admitted it didn’t really have a range of more than a few feet. But the stores, and the police department, changed their policies. You never knew when he would actually follow through on his threats, so it was never safe to call him on his bluffs.
However unorthodox they were, Hobson’s strategies were undeniably effective. In the rat protest’s case, the results were almost immediate: after some panicked phone calls, the city funded rat patrols for Northeast and Southeast.
Reminiscing about the operation in later years, Hobson said that despite the fact that he never had more than a dozen rats, he had intended to fulfill at least part of his promise if the city didn’t back down: “I was going to turn those rats loose on Georgetown,” he said. “The fact of the matter was, it was hell to catch those damn rats.”
Among Hobson’s other notable accomplishments are his role in desegregating DC public schools and dismantling their “track system” (in Hobson v. Hansen), his term on the school board, his pickets and boycotts that led to the desegregation of hundreds of DC businesses, his “lie-in” at Washington Hospital Center that helped end segregation there, his spearheading of the DC statehood campaign and founding of the DC Statehood Party (now the DC Statehood Green Party), his candidacy for Vice President of the US in 1972 on the People’s Party ticket with Benjamin Spock, and his term on the DC City Council from its inception in 1974 until his death in 1977.
Hobson’s own publications on social issues and activism, “The Damned…” series, are definitely worth a read. His titles are The Damned Children: A Layman’s Guide to Forcing Change in Public Education and The Damned Information: Acquiring and Using Public Information to Force Social Change. They are available in the Washingtoniana room of the District’s MLK Library and elsewhere.
The Washingtoniana room also holds the Julius Hobson Papers, a ridiculously extensive collection of Hobson’s personal letters and papers, as well as articles about him and various biographical documents. Here you can find things like a letter from Joan Baez about a protest the two had just been a part of, FBI files concerning his activities, and even (creepily enough) his x-rays from a check-up in 1972.
As state and federal regulators weigh the fate of two proposed wind energy installations off the coast of Ocean City, a recent poll conducted for one of the wind developers found widespread support for the project — even in and around Ocean City, where politicians and business leaders have intensified their opposition in recent months.
In the poll, a vast majority of respondents who vacation in Ocean City said the faint presence of giant wind turbines 19 miles offshore would not impact their desire to visit the resort town. And most owners of beachfront homes or condos said they weren’t worried about property values diminishing.
The poll of 600 registered voters was taken Feb. 11-17 by Bellwether Research and Consulting, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm with a wide variety of clients, including Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R). It was paid for by Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind, developer of the proposed Skipjack project off the coast of Ocean City, and had a 4-point margin of error.
The poll also surveyed 258 Worcester County voters. That segment of the survey carried a 6-point error margin.
The survey is being released as the Maryland Public Service Commission, which has approved two wind projects off the coast of Ocean City, considers the developers’ request to use bigger turbines than they had originally requested. The companies say the bigger turbines reflect changes in the technology and would enable them to operate state-of-the-art facilities.
Town officials have become more vocal in their opposition to the projects in recent years. The town government hired Bruce C. Bereano, a powerful figure in Annapolis and an ally of Hogan’s, to represent them in the State House. And to represent them before the PSC as they challenge the energy companies’ bids to build bigger turbines, town officials have hired Timothy F. Maloney, a former state legislator and close friend of Hogan’s.
Even if the PSC OK’s the bigger installations, the projects must still win approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior, a process that could take years.
But despite the vocal opposition of certain Ocean City leaders, the poll showed broad support for the Skipjack project throughout the state — and even in Worcester County.
The poll began by asking voters what they felt the most important issue facing Maryland was: 14% answered crime and safety, 10% replied education/public schools, 9% answered taxes/fees, and another 9% said health care/prescription drug costs (the survey was taken before there was much public attention on the coronavirus).
The poll then asked voters to think about sources of electricity. Asked which sources they most favored expanding — wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, coal or hydropower — 83% answered solar and 79% answered wind.
And asked whether they had “heard anything recently” about wind projects in Maryland, only 24% of voters answered affirmatively. Among those who answered yes, 47% said they heard that there was a plan to put windmills offshore, while 12% said they heard the project was the source of controversy.
Asked for their opinion on the plan to generate electricity with offshore wind in Maryland, 73% said they favored the idea and 14% opposed it.
The next poll question was designed to gauge voters’ views of the Skipjack proposal and was asked this way: “There is currently just one offshore wind farm operating in the U.S. which has five turbines and is off the coast of Block Island, R.I. A handful are planned in the next several years,
including one with 15 wind turbines over 19 miles off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. Would you favor or oppose this?” Seventy-two percent said they would support it, while 15% opposed it.
Opponents cited a variety of reasons for their skepticism: 15% said wind is not an efficient or sustainable source of energy; 13% said the turbines will hurt the environment; 11% said the project would not be cost effective; while 10% said it would have a negative effect on tourism or ruin the view.
Next, pollsters asked voters for their opinion of the proposal if wind turbines would only be faintly or barely visible from the shore. When the word “faintly” was employed, 74% said they favored the proposal. When the word “barely” was used, 72% were in favor.
Almost two-thirds of poll respondents — 62% — said they go to Ocean City for vacation or a trip to the beach. Asked if they would still visit the beach town if there were wind turbines off the coast, 86% said yes. Asked if tourism in Ocean City “would stay the same, increase, or decrease if there were wind turbines 19 miles off the coast,” 67% said stay the same, 11% said increase, and 14% said decrease. Eight percent did not know.
Six percent of poll respondents said they owned beachfront property in Ocean City. Asked whether they thought the wind turbines would have a positive or negative impact on their property, 61% said positive, 11% said negative, and 25% said no impact.
Sixty-seven percent suggested the turbines could have a positive impact on their own economic situation, while 72% predicted that the project would have a positive impact on the Ocean City economy.
The pollsters then asked a series of other questions related to the Ørsted wind energy project and found that voters were enthusiastic about several aspects of the proposal — its role in helping Maryland achieve its clean energy goals, its potential to create 1,400 jobs, the fact that it would create an artificial reef near the turbines, and the possibility of attracting tourists in Ocean City who would be interesting in taking boats out to look at the installation.
Fifty-percent of the poll respondents said they cared “a great deal” about climate change, while 30% said they cared some about the issue. Ten percent said they didn’t care much about climate change, while 7% said they did not care about climate change at all.
Perhaps most important to political leaders, the voters were asked whether opposition to the wind turbines would make them more or less likely to vote for a candidate. Eleven percent replied “much more likely,” 11% said somewhat more likely, 25% said somewhat less likely, and 37% said much less likely.