SANTA MONICA – A man is suing West Hollywood-based Grindr Inc., alleging the world’s largest dating app for LGBTQ+ people matched him with four adult men who sexually abused him in 2019 despite his being forthright about his youthfulness at the time.
“In our society, we do not allow adults to sexually abuse children,” states the Santa Monica Superior Court lawsuit filed by the plaintiff identified only as John Doe, who is now an adult and alleges strict product liability and negligence and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A Grindr representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Friday.
For more than a decade, Grindr, which purports to have an exclusively adult user base, has known its core product facilitates the sexual predation of children, the suit alleges.
“Grindr has long known that its product is used by LGBTQ+ children, especially those living in rural communities and conservative households who are scared to come out publicly,” according to the suit.
Grindr enables children to “frictionlessly” create online profiles without the permission or knowledge of parents or guardians, then connects adults to the same children for in-person sexual encounters, the suit further alleges.
“Many of these children who experiment with Grindr are youth who do not feel safe coming out as queer in their communities,” the suit states. “As a result, Grindr has created a generation of the already marginalized children whose first LGBTQ+ sexual encounter is with an adult.”
Grindr promotes itself on TikTok, an app where almost a third of its users are teens, and publishes marketing videos depicting purported users at middle or high schools, the suit states.
The plaintiff at the time was a 15-year-old living in a small town in Nova Scotia who loved music class and video games, but in high school, he had trouble socializing with his classmates and had no friends, the suit states.
“John Doe knew he was gay, but no one in his family had observed any signs that he was,” the suit states. “He had never dated and did not know how. He was also too ashamed to tell his parents he was gay.”
The plaintiff learned about Grindr through its marketing and downloaded the app in April 2019, the suit states.
“He wanted to make friends with other boys who identified as gay or bisexual,” the suit states. “Instead, Grindr matched John Doe with four adult men.”
Doe received a prompt stating he had to be at least 18 years old in order to use the app, but he was never asked to provide any sort of age verification, according to the suit.
Over a four-day period, the plaintiff was sexually assaulted by each of the four adults, three of whom are now in prison, while the fourth remains at large, the suit states.
“John Doe was expressive on the Grindr app that he was a kid,” the suit states.
At least two of the matches occurred while he was on school property and he sent messages using the Grindr app in which he shared photos of himself on campus, the suit states. He also allegedly made statements consistent with his status as a child, including that he lived with his parents and hoped to avoid getting into trouble with them.
The plaintiff had to testify against his abusers many times, forcing him to relive his trauma in order to get justice, the suit states.
“The assaults on John Doe were only possible because Grindr purposefully allows children to use its product and matches them with adults for the purpose of in-person sexual encounters,” the suit alleges.
“Doe has suffered and continues to suffer, life-changing emotional and psychological injuries caused by Grindr’s failure to create a safe product,” the suit states.
Due to his trauma, the plaintiff never obtained a high school diploma, has no plans to attend college and is unemployed, the suit states.