Disclaimer: mentions of sexual assault, rape, and violence toward women.
The Fuller Project is a global investigation news organization focused on women’s rights and issues. This past Friday, they filed papers in the Denver District Court to make records public, in the case of a Colorado cardiologist named Stephen Matthews. He’s charged with raping nearly a dozen women, and records of these charges have been presented in open court. Prosecutors say these attacks were facilitated by the dating apps Tinder and Hinge.
Untitled Jackie Sedley
Judge Eric M. Johnson ordered certain court records to be “suppressed” from public access until the conclusion of Matthews’ trial. The trial is set to be held next March. The Fuller Project’s action to make these records public joins a court filing by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on behalf of the Colorado News Collaborative.
KGNU’s Jackie Sedley spoke with The Fuller Project reporter Emily Elena Dugdale about the case, the withholding of the records from the public, and more on investigations into dating apps.
“We are pushing so hard for these records [because] we believe the public should know about this person that was in your community and he was a doctor, violating the trust allegedly of numerous women. And we think the public should know. And we also think that the app companies are complicit in this,” Dugdale told KGNU. “It’s not just about one guy who was allegedly hurting women. It’s about an app company that actually knew about this behavior. Prosecutors have said in the court that he was reported to the app company by women who allegedly were assaulted as early as 2020. And yet this man was able to stay on these dating apps for years. He was only arrested earlier this year. So, we’re really trying to get to the bottom of this and we believe some of those documents will help us with that.”
The Fuller Project became aware of this case as a part of a larger investigation on dating app-facilitated sexual violence. Dugdale says she has noticed a pattern of law enforcement placing blame on the survivors, rather than the perpetrators.
“I’ve talked to local police officers who just say, ‘oh, well, these, these girls made bad decisions,'” Dugdale says. “That’s not talking specifically about the Matthews case, but in other cases there’s kind of this jump to kind of blame the victim, unfortunately. And that also leads to particularly women not wanting to go to law enforcement and report when they’ve actually been assaulted or raped. So it’s a really vicious cycle.”
The Fuller Project has established a confidential text line and email address for survivors of sexual assault, and others with knowledge of violence linked to dating apps. The confidential text line is 213-373-4260, and the email address is [email protected]. Survivors of sexual assault and others with knowledge of violence linked to dating apps are invited to reach out anonymously via email, SMS, Signal, or WhatsApp to reach their reporters. They will not share any information without explicit permission.