Australia’s television standards watchdog has been hit with four times as many complaints about Married At First Sight compared to 12 months ago.
The Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has already received 41 official complaints about this season of MAFS – compared to just 10 in 2020.
These complaints have been referred to Channel 9, which has 60 days to respond before ACMA considers launching an official investigation into the practices.
Several former contestants have accused the show of failing in their duty of care toward female participants in recent years.
While current contestant Melissa Rawson, who was ‘married’ to Bryce Ruthven and still appears to be dating him, has not accused the show of malpractice, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition on her behalf.
Viewers claim her insecurities and trauma from previous relationships are being exploited to promote discussion and create high audience engagement – at the cost of her mental health and that of audiences.
Delia Donovan, the CEO of Domestic Violence NSW said shows like Married At First Sight can be ‘incredibly harmful’ for viewers watching at home.
Melissa Rawson was paired with Bryce Ruthven on the show and the couple appear to still be together in real life
While current contestant Melissa Rawson, who was married to Bryce Ruthven and by all accounts still appears to be dating him, has not accused the show of malpractice, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition on her behalf
‘The sole intention is to capitalise on viewers and make as much money as possible – forgetting that ultimately, it’s real human beings who are being exploited,’ she said.
‘The editing and messages of these shows are designed to shock, dramatise and expose the cast and misleads viewers about relationships and what constitutes a safe, healthy and respectful relationships.’
Ms Donovan encouraged programs to ensure they’re complying with an ethical framework to ensure the safety of participants and audiences.
The petition, meanwhile, argues Melissa has been subjected to ‘gaslighting, emotional manipulation, isolation, and countless other textbook signs of a controlling and or abusive relationship’.
Former contestants Natasha Spencer and Poppy Jennings both appeared on the show in 2020, have been arguing since their season aired that Channel 9 failed in their duty of care.
Former contestants Natasha Spencer (pictured) and Poppy Jennings both appeared on the show in 2020, have been arguing since their season aired that Channel 9 failed in their duty of care
Natasha revealed she suffered a total nervous breakdown while filming after hearing allegations of sexual assault on set.
She maintains production failed to appropriately deal with the allegations.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Channel 9 for comment.
Poppy, who was married to FIFO worker Luke Eglin on the experiment, claims she was not only mistreated but told she wasn’t allowed to voice her perspective of her experience on the show.
She also claimed there were incidents that happened during filming that were ‘too controversial’ to be shown on television.
‘Why is Luke crying when I left? What really happened that he was crying over! You don’t know because I wasn’t allowed to say! It’s too controversial!’ she added.
‘He’s scared s**tless I will tell the truth. I was afraid to speak up! But f**k this s**t, I’m going to tell everything! It’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t see! Go and ask Luke why I was so uncomfortable? Why the f**k did I really leave?
Poppy, who was married to FIFO worker Luke Eglin on the experiment, claims she was not only mistreated but told she wasn’t allowed to voice her perspective of her experience on the show
On Tuesday night’s episode, following weeks of tension Bryce planted an uninvited kiss on fellow contestant Beck’s cheek in an apparent attempt at humour
‘He’s petrified I’m going to talk. He knows he’s f**ked up. Those tears from him are for his reputation and job!’
Daily Mail Australia cannot publish the nature of her allegations for legal reasons.
Bryce has been widely criticised since the show’s very first episode for appearing to gaslight and manipulate his bride.
On Tuesday night’s episode, following weeks of tension Bryce planted an uninvited kiss on fellow contestant Beck’s cheek in an apparent attempt at humour.
The incident left Beck in a flood of tears while thousands of viewers expressed their outrage that the segment was allowed to air.
The incident left Beck (left) in a flood of tears while thousands of viewers expressed their outrage that the segment was allowed to air
Natasha has repeatedly criticised the show and the network for allegedly failing in their duty of care toward her when she had a nervous breakdown while filming
The latest episode prompted Natasha to speak out against production for not implementing trigger warnings before episodes or acknowledging potentially harmful behaviour that is being aired.
‘Instead, they’ve normalised domestic violence on our screens,’ she said. ‘They’ve given people the idea that this is normal because it’s appearing on our televisions.’
Natasha has repeatedly criticised the show and the network for allegedly failing in its duty of care towards her when she had a nervous breakdown while filming.
She said her breakdown was spurred by allegations of sexual assault on set and the network’s subsequent lack of action in dealing with the allegations.
While Natasha claims the head producer ‘bawled her eyes out and apologised’ about what happened, she said the apology ‘clearly’ wasn’t sincere given the content of subsequent seasons.
The look of love! Married At First Sight’s Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson, both 31, only had eyes for each other as they were spotted arriving in Sydney on Tuesday night
‘They’re not sorry. They’re not following a duty of care… they’re promoting [this] as a way of getting us talking and getting their ratings higher.’
WHAT IS GASLIGHTING?
Gaslighting a person is the action of manipulating them to a point that makes them doubt their own sanity.
It is a form of emotional abuse that often leaves a victim questioning their thoughts, opinions and perspectives.
Signs that you are a victim of gaslighting include:
- no longer feeling like the person you used to be
- losing confidence and feeling anxious
- questioning whether you’re ‘too sensitive’
- apologising often
- questioning whether your response to your partner’s actions was appropriate and sensitive enough
- making excuses for your partner’s behaviour
- avoiding giving family and friends information about your relationship
- feeling isolated from friends and family
- struggling to make decisions
Natasha went on to quash arguments that suggest participants ‘know what they are signing up for’ when applying for a dramatic reality television show like MAFS.
‘Nobody signs up to become a victim of mental abuse on national television.’
She argued that, as professional psychologists, the experts who made the match between Melissa and Bryce should have seen that she would be ‘at risk’.
‘She is quite obviously anxious attachment style and has a lot of insecurities… They’ve also screened Bryce who is a high rating narcissist and they’ve put them together.’
Natasha is one of more than 10,000 people who signed the petition demanding an apology from the network and the program.
She encouraged her 80,900 followers to do the same and send a clear message that ‘we don’t want to see this on our screens’.
Bryce sparked disdain among viewers when he told Melissa she wasn’t ‘his type’, ranked her fourth when asked which of the brides he was most attracted to and threw water in the face of another contestant.
There are also allegations that he had a girlfriend outside of the experiment, told male contestants he ‘would be single at the end’ and cheated on his fiance several times before appearing on the show.
But it wasn’t until he kissed Rebecca Zemek on the cheek during an argument that production allegedly stepped in and shut down for an entire day.
Beck told KIISFM’s Kyle and Jackie O the kiss affected her mentally, doubling down on her claim that it constitutes harassment.
‘It was one of those moments where I had to bring the contract up to even see what my rights are. I didn’t sign up for this,’ she said.
‘It was just so mentally draining for me at the time. I look at it the same way as I did before. It’s harassment. I think you learn to keep your hands to yourself when you’re five years old.
‘It was really hard for me to even watch last night… Everyone’s seen a good edit of it; it was worse than that.’
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