Nine issues statement refusing to apologise amid MAFS domestic violence claims

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Channel Nine has refused to apologise for airing controversial scenes between Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson on Married At First Sight, despite critics claiming their relationship depicts domestic abuse.

More than 12,000 viewers have signed a Change.org petition calling for Nine to apologise for airing ‘triggering’ scenes involving the couple, and accusing the network of failing in its ‘duty of care’ towards Melissa.

The petition argues Melissa has been subjected to ‘gaslighting, emotional manipulation, isolation, and countless other textbook signs of a controlling and or abusive relationship’ at the hands of her TV ‘husband’.

Nine breaks its silence: Channel Nine has refused to apologise for depicting controversial scenes between Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson (both pictured) on Married At First Sight, despite critics claiming their relationship depicts domestic abuse

Nine breaks its silence: Channel Nine has refused to apologise for depicting controversial scenes between Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson (both pictured) on Married At First Sight, despite critics claiming their relationship depicts domestic abuse  

On Wednesday, Married At First Sight’s executive producer John Walsh issued a statement denying that Melissa and Bryce’s relationship was ‘characterised by domestic violence’ and reaffirming that producers always uphold a high level of care for participants.

‘The petition in question does not reflect the nature of Bryce and Melissa’s relationship and at no time did [production company] Endemol Shine Australia or Nine consider Bryce and Melissa’s relationship to be characterised by domestic violence or the like,’ Mr Walsh told B&T. 

‘If that had been the case we would have intervened immediately. Our first priority in making MAFS is to make sure all the participants feel they are operating in a safe environment,’ he continued.

Petition: More than 12,000 viewers have signed a Change.org petition calling for Nine to apologise for airing 'triggering' scenes involving the couple, and accusing the network of failing in its 'duty of care' towards Melissa

Petition: More than 12,000 viewers have signed a Change.org petition calling for Nine to apologise for airing ‘triggering’ scenes involving the couple, and accusing the network of failing in its ‘duty of care’ towards Melissa

Allegations: The petition argues Melissa has been subjected to 'gaslighting, emotional manipulation, isolation, and countless other textbook signs of a controlling and or abusive relationship' at the hands of her TV 'husband'. Pictured together at Sydney Airport last week

Allegations: The petition argues Melissa has been subjected to ‘gaslighting, emotional manipulation, isolation, and countless other textbook signs of a controlling and or abusive relationship’ at the hands of her TV ‘husband’. Pictured together at Sydney Airport last week

Mr Walsh went on to highlight that participants are actively encouraged to report situations where they feel unsafe during filming.

He also listed the ‘rigorous processes’ that are used during filming to protect participants from toxic situations, including giving them access to a dedicated psychologist.

Participants are also provided with access to a psychologist after the show finishes production.

Denial: On Wednesday, Married At First Sight's executive producer John Walsh issued a statement denying that Melissa and Bryce's relationship was 'characterised by domestic violence' and reaffirming that producers always uphold a high level of care for participants

Denial: On Wednesday, Married At First Sight’s executive producer John Walsh issued a statement denying that Melissa and Bryce’s relationship was ‘characterised by domestic violence’ and reaffirming that producers always uphold a high level of care for participants

Channel Nine’s statement in full

‘The petition in question does not reflect the nature of Bryce and Melissa’s relationship and at no time did Endemol Shine Australia or Nine consider Bryce and Melissa’s relationship to be characterised by domestic violence or the like. If that had been the case we would have intervened immediately.

‘Our first priority in making MAFS is to make sure all the participants feel they are operating in a safe environment. At a briefing of participants prior to commencement of filming, the importance of alerting production if they felt unsafe or uncomfortable with their partners at any time was reinforced. We understand meeting and marrying someone at first sight and living with them for eight weeks can be a potentially daunting experience and we would not persist with a scenario where someone does not feel safe.

‘We have very rigorous processes in place to protect all participants in the experiment. All participants have access to the show psychologist during filming, broadcast and once the program has ended. Nine also provides an additional service for participants should they like or need further individual and confidential psychological support.

‘This service gives participants access to psychologists who have been specifically engaged to support those involved in the program in relation to their experiences. This confidential service is available to all participants for as long as they need.’

Bryce has been widely criticised since the show’s very first episode for appearing to gaslight and manipulate his bride. 

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. 

However, Melissa is still dating Bryce and has not accused the show of malpractice.

The kiss: During last Tuesday's episode, Bryce planted an unwanted kiss on fellow participant Beck Zemek's cheek in an apparent attempt at humour, following weeks of tension

The kiss: During last Tuesday’s episode, Bryce planted an unwanted kiss on fellow participant Beck Zemek’s cheek in an apparent attempt at humour, following weeks of tension 

During last Tuesday’s episode, Bryce planted an unwanted kiss on fellow participant Beck Zemek’s cheek in an apparent attempt at humour, following weeks of tension. 

The incident left Beck in floods of tears as thousands of viewers expressed their outrage that the segment was allowed to air.

Beck subsequently told The Kyle and Jackie O Show the kiss affected her mentally, doubling down on her claim that it was harassment.

Tears: The incident left Beck in floods of tears as thousands of viewers expressed their outrage that the segment was allowed to air

Tears: The incident left Beck in floods of tears as thousands of viewers expressed their outrage that the segment was allowed to air

‘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.’

Meanwhile, Australia’s television watchdog has been hit with four times as many complaints about Married At First Sight compared to 12 months ago.

Complaints: Meanwhile, Australia's television watchdog has been hit with four times as many complaints about Married At First Sight compared to 12 months ago

Complaints: Meanwhile, Australia’s television 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 Nine, 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.

Claims: Several former contestants have accused the show of failing in their duty of care toward female participants in recent years. Natasha Spencer (pictured) who appeared on MAFS in 2020, has revealed she suffered a total nervous breakdown during filming after hearing allegations of sexual assault on set

Claims: Several former contestants have accused the show of failing in their duty of care toward female participants in recent years. Natasha Spencer (pictured) who appeared on MAFS in 2020, has revealed she suffered a total nervous breakdown during filming after hearing allegations of sexual assault on set  

Natasha Spencer, who appeared on MAFS in 2020, has revealed she suffered a total nervous breakdown during filming after hearing allegations of sexual assault on set.

She maintains production failed to appropriately deal with the allegations. 

Fellow participant Poppy Jenkins, who was married to FIFO worker Luke Eglin on the experiment in 2020, has also claimed she was mistreated but told she wasn’t allowed to voice her perspective of her experience on the show.

She also alleged 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 said.

‘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?’ 

‘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.

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'I wasn't allowed to say! It's too controversial!' Poppy Jenkins (pictured) who was married to FIFO worker Luke Eglin on the experiment in 2020, has claimed she was mistreated but told she wasn't allowed to voice her perspective of her experience on the show

‘I wasn’t allowed to say! It’s too controversial!’ Poppy Jenkins (pictured) who was married to FIFO worker Luke Eglin on the experiment in 2020, has claimed she was mistreated but told she wasn’t allowed to voice her perspective of her experience on the show 

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