Grindr Comes Face-to-Face with SA Grindr Gang Attack Survivors

Steph Niaupari and Jack Harrison-Quintana from Grindr for Equality with PFSAQ founder Virginia Magwaza met victims in Johannesburg to discuss the Grindr gang attacks

Steph Niaupari and Jack Harrison-Quintana from Grindr for Equality, with PFSAQ founder Virginia Magwaza, met survivors in Johannesburg to discuss the Grindr Gang syndicate attacks 

Grindr representatives have met with several survivors of the ongoing epidemic of attacks targeting LGBTIQ+ South Africans on the app to hear their harrowing stories firsthand.

On Friday, Jack Harrison-Quintana, Director of Grindr for Equality, and Steph Niaupari, Grindr Equality Outreach Manager, attended a gathering of Grindr Gang survivors, their parents, and activists, hosted by Parents, Families and Friends of South African Queers (PFSAQ) at The Other Foundation’s offices in Johannesburg.

Their hope was to learn more about the numerous incidents of criminals, believed to be a syndicate, using the Grindr dating app to target vulnerable LGBTIQ+ people, a disturbing phenomenon that seems to have escalated out of control in recent years.

The meeting began with the survivors bravely sharing their traumatic experiences of being lured to fake dates by criminals through Grindr, only to be abducted, brutalised, beaten and threatened with death.

While some were then robbed after being forced to give their attackers online access to their bank accounts, others were held for ransom – sometimes for days – as funds were paid by their desperate families and friends for their release.

Heart-Wrenching Testimonies

One individual lost their life savings, while another fell victim to the Grindr Gang syndicate twice in the space of a year. It was confirmed that transgender women are also targeted, and at least three incidents were discussed in which the victims were murdered.

One young man recounted hearing the screams of a transgender victim who was being beaten to death in the room next to his while he was held captive.

An emotional mother and father spoke of their ongoing trauma after their son was kidnapped and his captors sent them appalling videos of him being tortured. A story was told of one survivor who was left unable to talk after his kidnappers cut his vocal chords. 

The often callous and brazen attitude of the criminals also revealed little fear of being caught by police. Some victims and family members continued to be harassed and threatened by the abductors after their release.

A transgender survivor and activist told the participants that when she attended the court case of the men arrested for kidnapping another survivor, she recognised two of her own captors shamelessly attending the hearing in the public gallery in support of their criminal associates.

Most of those in the room, not just the survivors, knew of other victims of the Grindr Gang syndicate around the country, revealing the frightening scale of the crisis. The stories not only shocked the Grindr representatives but also the activists in attendance who assumed they already knew many of the details of these incidents.

Police Incompetence and Indifference

Despite some arrests, the survivors’ accounts exposed the alarming ineptitude of the police and their inadequate response to these crimes. In two instances where victims’ whereabouts were traced via their phones by concerned family or friends, law enforcement refused to assist.

In another incident, when activists compelled police intervention, fearful officers hesitated to approach the victim’s suspected location, insisting that the activists lead the way.

Almost all survivors had the common experience of their cases not being investigated effectively and typically never being contacted again by the police after they reported the incidents. Some shared the firm belief that police members work with the criminals.

Exploring Solutions and Safety Measures

Harrison-Quintana engaged with the survivors to explore their perspectives on how Grindr could enhance user protection. The discussion addressed ideas and approaches for authenticating and reporting profiles, by both the company and its users, to identify and address criminals abusing the platform. Additionally, discussions included suggestions on enabling users to easily share their locations with others.

Harrison-Quintana acknowledged that he had not encountered the problem of criminals exploiting Grindr users on this magnitude in any other country where homosexuality is legal. In regions where this issue is prevalent, such as Egypt, LGBTIQ+ individuals were usually targeted by law enforcement and with much less violence.

Additionally, he observed that the criminals in South Africa seemed to possess an unusually sophisticated grasp of technology, enabling them to target victims and evade detection more effectively.

Harrison-Quintana confirmed that not only would he be meeting with other LGBTIQ+ groups and survivors during his trip, he was also scheduled to meet with Department of Justice officials through which he hoped to convey the company’s willingness to assist the police in any way possible.

Harrison-Quintana thanked the survivors for their willingness to open up about their ordeals and promised to share their stories and their suggestions with his colleagues. “My commitment is to make sure that everyone at the company hears everything you said and that we can move forward together,” he said.

Survivors: Catharsis But More Needs to be Done

At least one survivor, though drained, expressed a sense of relief at having his experience acknowledged by sharing it directly with Grindr’s representatives.

“It was encouraging to know that there are actual faces and real human beings behind the app and that they seem to care and are taking this problem, which has become so prevalent, quite seriously,” Hendrik told MambaOnline. “I sincerely hope that they will consider some of our suggestions and make the necessary changes,” he said.

Thabsie, another survivor, also expressed hope that the meeting will have a positive impact on dealing with the Grindr Gang syndicate attacks. “The meeting was very productive for me. I feel that with all that the victims raised and shared with the representatives of Grindr, it’s more than enough for them to find solutions and improve the app.”

A third survivor, who asked to remain anonymous, believes the meeting was too short and unstructured to comprehensively address the issues raised but that it did provide “a cathartic experience where we exposed our personal experiences and trauma.”

However, he asserted that a trauma counselor should have been provided at the gathering and that Grindr did not take sufficient responsibility for making its app safer. He also questioned why it’s taken so long for the company to come to South Africa to address the crisis.

“Contacting Grindr’s technical support team [after he was kidnapped] was fruitless, and I genuinely feel Grindr is not doing enough to help the police catch the culprits. These abductions have been going on for far too long,” he said.

“The police should be on Grindr to arrest these guys as well. And Grindr must cooperate with the police and provide feedback to their customers on its platform about progress being made.”

While he understood that “Grindr does not want to be held accountable for the way people use its app… caring for its customers is going the extra mile.”


*This article was updated on 25/02/2024 with additional feedback on the meeting from survivors

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend