The Rav4 does have a bumper, it is just behind the bumper cover. Most modern cars are designed in this manner - only a handful still have a \"bumper\" that is projected beyond the body lines. The reason being are both aesthetic and functional - aesthetic in that the body looks \"smooth\", functional in that it allows different design elements to be incorporated to enhance airflow, reduce drag, and/or reduce overall weight. There is still a steel reinforcement beam inside, still set-off the unit-body by impact absorbers, and will still protect the occupants like a regular externally mounted bumper.
She could be thinking about the rear mounted spare tire - almost every make that has one has the potential more extensive damage in an accident, since the impact load will be spread over a wider area.
Assuming she purchased a Ford Escape (similar in size to a Rav4)? Between the two - the IIHS rated their newest models GOOD for offset frontal crash and side impact. Rav4 got an ACCEPTABLE for rollover strength, Escape rated a notch lower at MARGINAL. Both the NHTSA and IIHS found both of these vehicles very similar in safety overall. Only thing that jumps out is that the Escape has shown weak braking compared to others in its class.