Cape Town - In the wake of mixed reactions to the Western Cape government’s stance on supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, organisation OUT LGBT-Wellbeing (OUT) has lifted the lid on the apparent targeting and attacks on the queer community through dating platforms.
OUT said over the past few years, numerous members of the LGBTQIA+ community, predominantly gay, bisexual and other queer men, have reported having been entrapped by criminals through the use of dating apps like Grindr, Tinder, Ads Africa and others.
The organisation said once the victims arrive at the arranged date, they would allegedly be restrained by several men, often beaten, threatened and forced to empty their bank accounts by the assailants or to ask family members to pay ransom fees for their release.
In efforts to raise awareness about the issue, OUT ran a social media campaign calling for more victims to come forward, and report the incidents to the organisation and local authorities.
According to OUT, since the launch of the campaign, it has received 18 reports detailing gruesome attacks.
OUT strategic communications manager Luiz De Barro said while the reports have all surfaced from areas mainly in Gauteng such as Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, including Sandton, Randburg, Fourways, Tembisa, Soweto and Lenasia, the organisation has heard of incidents taking place in other parts of the country but was still to receive any formal reports.
Speaking to the Cape Argus, De Barros said there could be many reasons why the LGBTQIA+ persons living in other parts of the country were hesitant to come forward and report their experiences.
He said: “Unfortunately it all stems down to fear. Being afraid of secondary victimization when reporting to the police, we know this still happens. Being identified and outed to the public when one isn’t ready.
“The possibility that one might be humiliated, the shame of falling victim to false interest and being attacked on top of that, unfairly so.”
De Barros said while the organisation was still running its campaign hoping to encourage more people to come forward, OUT was still to reach out to the social platforms which the alleged criminals were infiltrating.
He said: “With regards to reaching out to the identified platforms we haven’t yet, and we wouldn’t know where to start. However, that is something we will look into, as there needs to be some form of responsibility these sites take to ensure the safety of their users. I think at some point Grindr initiated a project where it flashed a prompt on its site.”
While OUT revealed that it had received reports regarding attacks on several dating sites, it had noted recurring reporting of attacks by a so-called ‘Grindr Gang’.
The Cape Argus reached out to the dating platform Grindr, but unfortunately, its query was not responded to by the time of publication.
OUT Human Rights Manager Lerato Phalakatshela said: “We urge members of the LGBTQIA+ community to be cautious when using dating sites. OUT is assisting the victims with legal advice, case monitoring and psychosocial support and referrals.”
“We are also working with CAP, a private security company that has been closely monitoring these incidents. CAP is using the information from reported cases to assist the police in identifying suspects,” Phalakatshela said.
Commenting on the worrying trend of attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community, Triangle Project spokesperson Ling Sheperd said while some people may argue that apps like Grindr are an invitation to get hurt, these sites provided freedom to many LGBTQIA+ folk who were out.
Sheperd said: “They may have no other option for socialising and finding friends who are part of the LGBT+ community. The Triangle Project supports everyone’s rights to interact with anyone they choose offline or online, without having to worry about being attacked and hurt.
“When it comes to safety for the LGBTQIA+ community we, unfortunately, must be hyper-vigilant. LGBTQIA+ are human rights! This means we have the right to safety and security as we navigate our lives.”
The Triangle helpline is open between 1- 9 pm 7 days a week on: 021 712 6699, and counselling appointments can be booked by calling 021 422 0255 /Email: [email protected]
To report incidents of secondary victimization at police stations, you can contact the Station Commander of the precinct or escalate the matter to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID): 0800 111 969 / 012 399 0000 / [email protected].