The so-called Grindr Gang has been targeting gay, bisexual and queer men in Gauteng for years
- A young Johannesburg man was beaten and attacked by the Grindr Gang in late February
- At least three new cases took place AFTER police arrested four suspects
- The LGBTIQ+ community is warned to continue to use dating apps with caution
Despite recent arrests, we can confirm that gay and bi men are still being actively targeted through Grindr and other dating apps after a new victim came forward to recount his harrowing ordeal.
Jason (not his real name) became a victim of dating app criminals – dubbed the “Grindr Gang” by some – on Friday 24 February after the 24-year-old arranged to meet a man that he’d started chatting to on Grindr the previous day.
The location he received took him to a sports field in the south of Johannesburg, whereafter he was directed to an apartment complex. He found the man, a white South African, waiting for him outside. The two walked up to the apartment, where Jason noted that of the three rooms, only one door was open.
“We entered the room and I immediately felt uncomfortable,” Jason tells Mamba. “It was dark. He sat at the top of the bed, and I sat close to the edge of the bed.” Becoming increasingly uncomfortable, Jason decided to leave. “Three seconds later he was strangling me,” says Jason, “and screaming, ‘you’re not leaving, you’re being robbed!”
At that point two other men, who Jason believes were Nigerian, entered the room. “They took off my Apple watch, my phone and my wallet. They threw me onto the carpet floor, head down. One of the guys was on my back. They had knives about 45cm long. They beat me up, physically and with the weapons.”
The men then demanded the password to his phone and the pins for the bank cards in his wallet.
“They were also demanding R100,000 to R200,000 ransom. I asked them who I should call, I could call my parents if they wanted. At first, they said yes then they quickly said no.” When he couldn’t remember the pin for one of his bank cards, the men assaulted him.
“It still hurts me that that’s what I went through… that I almost lost my life.”
“They pulled my pants off as well as my shoes – I felt like I was going to be raped,” recounts Jason. “With the shock and trauma, I peed myself. They pushed me against the wall and the two men pulled their knives towards my dick and said if I didn’t do what they asked they would cut it off. I was crying but I was told not to talk loudly, or I’d be beaten again.”
One of the Nigerians and the South African then left the apartment with Jason’s bank cards and withdrew R28,000 from his account. In the meantime, the remaining assailant in the room continued to threaten him with a knife.
“He started telling me about how we are brothers and mentioned that kidnapping is real and asked if I had heard of trafficking. It went through my mind that I might not leave there alive. He also mentioned how he had paid for everything that the South African guy had gotten in life.”
The two other men returned, and there was talk of stealing Jason’s car, but they decided against it. The South African warned Jason that they’d put a tracker in his vehicle and that if he did anything stupid when he left, they would find him and kill him.
Jason was given his wallet back without his bank cards and the three men walked out. In a somewhat bizarre twist, a woman, who he was told was the South African’s mother, then came into the room.
“She sat on the edge of the bed and said to me that I’m very cute. It was very silent after that. I asked if she had a Panado [pain tablet] to which she replied that they didn’t have the money to buy it.” The woman then told him that he could leave.
“I was so scared to move because the men had told me not to leave. She took her phone and phoned her son, and she asked him if it was okay for me to leave. It was on speaker, and he said to me, ‘yes you can leave, fucker’.”
The woman then escorted Jason out of the building. He walked to a nearby petrol station where the men had left his car and he drove to a friend’s house.
Jason went on to report the attack to the police and accompanied officers to the apartment where the “mother” was arrested. It was revealed, however, that the woman is not the man’s mother.
Jason is still unable to explain the nature of the relationships between the four individuals involved in his ordeal and how they are connected. The investigation is ongoing, and he is receiving trauma counselling.
“The Saturday, the Sunday and then the Monday it was really emotionally draining because I cried a lot,” he says. “Having gone for trauma counselling, I’m doing a lot better. But it still hurts me that that’s what I went through. It hurts me that I almost lost my life.”
Three cases, including Jason’s attack, took place in the last few weeks; after the arrests
On 16 February, police announced the arrest of four suspects in connection with a similar incident. It was hoped that this would finally bring the Grindr Gang dating attacks that have plagued the LGBTIQ+ community for years to an end. It’s now become clear, however, that other criminals are continuing to target gay, bisexual and queer men.
After a recent call for victims to come forward, OUT LGBT Well-being received 13 reports of cases that occurred between June 2022 and February 2023 in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, including Sandton, Randburg, Fourways, Tembisa, Soweto and Lenasia. (It’s believed that many cases go unreported due to stigma and shame around the use of dating apps, and because some victims may be in the closet.)
According to Lerato Phalakatshela, the organisation’s Human Rights Manager, three of the 13 reported cases, including Jason’s attack, took place in the last few weeks; after the arrests took place.
“OUT urges members of the LGBTIQ+ community, particularly gay, bisexual and queer men, to continue to use dating apps with caution as we can confirm that these groups are still actively preying on new victims,” says Phalakatshela. “What we have also noticed,” he adds, “is that some of the victims were targeted on other platforms and apps in addition to Grindr, such as Tinder and Ads Africa.”
OUT is assisting the victims with legal advice, case monitoring and psychosocial support and referrals. The organisation is also working with CAP, a private security company that has been closely monitoring these incidents.
One of the victims reported that he was allegedly harassed for money by police officers from the station at which he reported his attack. This is a clear instance of secondary victimisation of an already traumatised individual, says Phalakatshela.
He recommends that any victim facing this kind of behaviour from the police report it immediately to the station commander. They can also escalate the matter to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) on 0800 111 969 / 012 399 0000 or via email@example.com.
Victims of recent and older Grindr Gang dating app attacks are urged to continue to confidentially report these incidents to OUT by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. “We will not only provide them with support, but these reports will help establish more details about these crimes and how to stamp them out,” says Phalakatshela.