OUT, the LGBT health and well-being group in Pretoria, has once again called on  gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men to take precautions in light of the murders of eight gay men in Gauteng and the recent murder of a gay man in Cape Town.

On Monday, the organisation noted that police have confirmed that they believe that a gang targeting gay men has been operating in these areas.

Even though three men have been arrested in one of the murder cases, that of Orange Grove resident Barney van Heerden, police have warned gay men nationally to be wary of whom they allow into their homes as other suspects may continue to target them.

Earlier this month, the body of 50-year-old Graham Collop was found in his ransacked flat in Plumstead. He had been bound and strangled and there was no sign of forced entry; circumstances similar to those of a series of murders of gay men in Gauteng over the past two years.

The authorities believe that, at least in some of the cases, chat rooms and online dating services may have been used to target the victims. In many of the cases there was no sign of forced entry into the victims’ homes.

“Due to stigma, discrimination and homophobia, many men create hidden ways to meet other men, such as utilising online dating services, chat rooms, and/or unsafe cruising spots,” said Dawie Nel, Director of OUT. “Men can then become vulnerable when they take these strangers into their homes,” he warned.

OUT urged gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men to keep the following suggestions in mind:

Things to avoid

  • When first chatting to someone online look out for stories or comments that contradict things he might have said. Look out for any obvious lying and deceit. It could be minor, but be aware that he could be hiding something more serious.
  • Don’t be naive. Be aware that not everyone you meet online is looking for the same thing as you, even if they say they are. Some may be more interested in your money or possessions.

  • Avoid giving out your address too easily and to just any guy you meet online. Try to first get to know him by chatting over a few days. Exchange a couple of e-mails or try to meet him in a neutral space first, like a coffee shop.

  • Avoid anyone that starts asking for any kind of financial assistance or money.

  • Don’t go to a hook-up without leaving some record of where you’re going. Ideally tell someone where you’re off to – even if it is just in an e-mail to a friend (don’t be shy to mention to your date that you’ve done this).

  • Don’t leave expensive items lying around if you invite a stranger to your home. Put away any items of value – wallet, laptop, money, iPad etc.

  • Avoid using substances such as drugs or excessive alcohol when going out or visiting a stranger. If you must, rather do these in a safe environment.

  • Don’t do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing. If it feels wrong or dangerous, turn around and leave the situation.

Things to do

  • If possible, organise to first meet the guy in a public place; say for coffee or a drink, before hooking-up. Be seen with him by other people and if you feel comfortable, only then consider going home with him or taking him to your place.
  • If you meet him at a club or bar, introduce him to a friend and let your friend know that you’re leaving with the guy.

  • Be prepared. What will you do if the guy arrives and he turns out not to be who or what you expected or hoped for?

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Is there an opportunity for you to leave if he becomes aggressive? Are there people around?

  • Rather than inviting someone to your home or going to his, it is probably safer to meet him at a sex venue or steam bath, where there are other people around.

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