It’s not safe: My Grindr Gang experience

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Members of the so-called Grindr Gang continue to prey on queer men in South Africa, despite an arrest in February this year.

For several years, queer men, primarily in Johannesburg but also Cape Town, have been lured via dating apps like Grindr to locations to meet other men where they are typically beaten, threatened, and robbed. They are often held hostage while criminals empty their bank accounts through the victim’s banking apps. Below is one man’s recent experience, in his own words.

My name is Tsietsi, and I’m from Soweto. I’m 23 years old, and I’m a member of the LGBTQI community. Let me tell you what happened on Thursday, 20th July 2023.

Around 9 in the morning, I received a text from a guy I was talking to on the Grindr gay app. We had exchanged numbers, and he messaged me on WhatsApp. He suggested that we meet at the Shell Garage next to the Jabulani Police Station.

I decided to go meet him and, before that, I asked for some pictures, which he sent. However, I didn’t request a video call.

When I arrived, I met him, and he proposed that we go to his place on a street behind the police station. At that time, the street was empty and quiet.

As we walked, I had no idea that two of his friends were following me. Suddenly, they pulled out guns and dragged me into a nearby bush.

To my surprise, there were two other guys waiting there. They started beating me up badly and took my phone and some cash I had on me. While they beat me, they tried to force me to transfer money. One of them even hit my head with a gun, causing an injury and bleeding.

It was a horrible experience, and I really hope justice will be served. I reported the incident to the police on Saturday. For my own safety, I’m currently staying in Pretoria, still dealing with the trauma.

I managed to get a picture of one of the guys who robbed me, and I’m doing my best to handle this situation. We need to save many lives out there because it’s no longer safe. Despite my injuries and bruises, I’m grateful to be alive.

My advice to my fellow queer people is that we should either stop using Grindr or take precautions. Always ask for pictures of the other guys and do video calls for security reasons. Share the information and the guy’s number with someone you trust. Even if we meet in public spaces, it may not always guarantee safety.

When we join Grindr, they should verify our details, like our IDs and confirm our pictures or selfies. Only then might this platform become safer, but as it is now, it’s not safe.

What you can do:

  • If you are a victim of the Grindr Gang and would like confidential and non-judgmental LGBTQ support and advice, email OUT LGBT Well-being which can assist with legal and other advice and counselling.
  • To read Mamba’s online dating and hook-up safety tips, click here
  • To read Grindr’s safety and privacy guidelines, click here

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