Victims of the ongoing spate of Grindr hookup kidnappings have spoken about their ordeals on Checkpoint, eNCA’s current affairs show.
Last week’s episode looked at the recent incidents of kidnapping and extortion that took place when the victims arranged to meet other men through dating apps like Grindr.
These crimes are not new but are often hidden due to the victims’ fear of being shamed, stigmatised or outed if they go to the authorities.
As reported by MambaOnline in March, the victims are typically lured to a location with sex as an incentive. On arrival, they are confronted by a group of men and are sometimes driven elsewhere.
There, they are forced to undress, tied up, threatened with death and instructed to phone family or friends for a ransom of up to R30,000.
Checkpoint featured three Johannesburg victims who remained anonymous as they told their stories to viewers. One spoke about how his captors boasted of the high number of queer men that they’ve extorted.
And while police are aware of some of these incidents they say they have little to work with. The victims are often blocked by the perpetrators on the dating app causing their conversations to disappear and leaving no way to track the criminals.
The locations used to hold the victims are also reportedly informally rented by the criminals, ensuring that they have no link to the houses.
Two of the men spoke about how they were left traumatised by their ordeal. “I have been scarred and I haven’t fully healed. I’m not sure I’ve healed at all,” said one, who has suffered from panic attacks.
The third man became suspicious and avoided being kidnapped after he sent a voice note from the perpetrator to a friend who’d been a victim before and who recognised the man’s voice.
Activist, writer and editor Treyvone Moosa, who has assisted some of the victims during their kidnappings, believes that it is the same gang behind these crimes. “They are using the stereotype that gay people have access to funds because of the lifestyle we portray online,” Moosa said.
Moosa argues that dating apps need to take some responsibility. “There needs to be some safety mechanism that Grindr puts in place for the very people they say they are serving,” Moosa said.
Roché Kester, Director: LGBTI and others at the office of the Gauteng premier, told Checkpoint that she is aiming to collate as many cases as possible and take them to the Department of Justice to escalate the matter.
“Grindr, in a way, was supposed to be a safe space for queer people and now has completely turned into a way that queer people have been exploited,” said Kester.
MambaOnline urges dating app users to be extremely careful when arranging hookups with strangers.
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Watch the Checkpoint episode below.