**Trigger warning: this article contains references to domestic violence and abusive behaviour.
For weeks now, Married at First Sight viewers have witnessed the troubling dynamic between Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson, with the former being accused of exhibiting gaslighting behaviour — in fact, this season of the reality show has become the most complained about series of the show ever, although not all complaints pertained to the divisive couple.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) reported on Thursday, April 8 that it had received 54 complaints about the show, up from 41 the previous week.
According to ACMA, “A significant proportion of the complaints alleged the program included personally abusive interchanges between participants through gaslighting, social, verbal and mental abuse, and that the program perpetuated and promoted the theme of domestic abuse.”
Additionally, a quick glance at one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to the show reveals numerous posts complaining about Ruthven’s actions, with some users even relating them back to their own harrowing experiences with domestic abuse and coercive control.
The dissent went one step further, with a petition being circulated on Change.org demanding that Channel 9 take responsibility for the triggering content.
The petition has so far reached more than 14,000 signatures.
The call to action claims that “Melissa is being subjected to mental torture, very obviously to the viewer, creating a distressing viewing experience, especially those who are victims of DV relationships.
“There is a clear failure of duty of care to Melissa during the filming of the show, allowing her to remain in a toxic and dangerous environment with her partner for the “benefit” of the network.
“She is being subject to gaslighting, emotional manipulation, isolation, and countless other TEXTBOOK signs of a controlling and or abusive relationship.”
The author of the petition also asserts that Channel 9 has failed in its duty of care to viewers and that the couple is incredibly triggering and stressful to watch.
Despite the controversy, Ruthven and Rawson decided to stay together during their final vows, and are still together now.
Fellow participant Rebecca Zemek also had issues with Ruthven’s behaviour on the show, previously alleging that production of the reality series was shut down following an unwanted kiss from Ruthven, which aired on Tuesday, March 30.
Zemek told KIISFM’s Kyle and Jackie O that the kiss had affected her mentally and that viewers had seen a “good edit”.
“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, I didn’t sign up for even having conversations with Bryce anymore,” she said on the pairs breakfast radio show, adding that production was shut down for a day following the dinner party.
“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.”
Viewers expressed their disgust with the situation by taking to Twitter, with one user writing, “With everything going on in Australia at present in regards to the treatment of women, consent and sexual abuse how does Bryce get away with laying an unwanted kiss onto a woman on national television. I am not a fan of Bec but come on that is just not on!!”.
#MAFS #MAFSAustralia with everything going on in Australia at present in regards to treatment of women, consent and sexual abuse how does Bryce get away with laying an unwanted kiss onto a woman on national television. I am not a fan of Bec but come on that is just not on!!
— say what? (@dontbsilent_say) March 30, 2021
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