Ever since Greta Thunberg absolutely bodied him with a single tweet, things have only gone downhill for Andrew Tate, the self-proclaimed misogynist, and influencer who’s currently being detained on allegations of rape, human trafficking, and being part of an organized crime group. After Romanian authorities raided his villa on December 29, more and more accusers have come forth with their experiences with Tate. On Friday, BBC published an interview with two Romanian women who claim that Tate and his brother, Tristan Tate, contacted them on social media in 2020, when they were 16 and 17.
“It was obvious we were high-school girls,” Daria Gușă, the daughter of a Romanian politician who now goes to college in the U.K., told the BBC. “We had our high school in our bio and everything. I think he was just trying to find girls who were as innocent or naïve as possible, in my opinion.”
The girls alleged that Tate and his brother used Instagram DMs to get in touch with them. “It just read ‘Romanian girl’ and he put some flirty emoji,” Gușă said, adding that she had a private account with only 200 followers. Gușă also said that while she didn’t respond to the message, some of her friends did.
Another young woman under the pseudonym Gabriela detailed a similar interaction with Tate’s brother, Tristan. When she was 17, she received a DM that said, “You’re beautiful”—an identical message to the ones her friends received from the same account. “I knew he was using the same approach with other girls,” she told the BBC. “He always starts the conversation with the same exact line: ‘You’re beautiful.’” The messages seem to have come out of Tate’s step-by-step guides on how to talk to women, which he details in many of his online videos, including explaining his fruit emojis: “Sometimes [for] intrigue, I’ll put a completely pointless emoji on the end: some cherries, or an orange, or a strawberry.”
Gabriela also said that Tate invited her into his car and to go to a party, both offers which she declined.
While neither Gușă nor Gabriela believed that their interactions with either man were attempts at human trafficking, their actions fall directly in line with a common tactic used by traffickers to recruit victims. “Romeo pimping” is when a person “purposefully, intentionally, and fraudulently creates a romantic relationship with another person for the purposes of human trafficking,” Caren Benjamin, the Chief of External Affairs at Polaris, a U.S.-based anti-human trafficking non-profit organization, told Jezebel. “The real reason that this relationship has been created and maintained is so that the trafficker can then convince the person to engage in commercial sex and give that trafficker the profits.”
Tate himself has boasted about such tactics: in an interview with the men’s podcast, Fresh and Fit, (which was posted by the YouTube channel Tate Stories,) Tate brags about the origins of his webcam business, which he started in his London apartment with two out of five girlfriends who he flew in and who agreed to work with him. “At one point I had 75 women working for me in four locations,” he said in the interview. “And I was doing six hundred thousand dollars a month.”
As BBC further reports:
In publicity for his online courses, in manipulating and exploiting women, Andrew Tate said: “I’ve been running a web-cam studio for over a decade… Over 50% of my employees were actually my girlfriends at the time and, of all my girlfriends, NONE were in the adult entertainment industry before they met me.”
He describes his job as “to meet a girl, go on a few dates, sleep with her… get her to fall in love with me, to where she’d do anything I say,” the publicity continues, “and then get her on web-cam so we could become rich together.”
Though cruel and highly manipulative, Benjamin explained that there are many reasons why traffickers opt for this route to pimping. “Love and connection and a place to belong and a partner to share your life with are pretty basic human needs that everybody has,” she said. “Traffickers recognize that and they also target people for whom those needs are more acute for any number of reasons.”
While messaging underage girls 20 years your junior is deeply problematic (and illegal in most places), Benjamin said younger people aren’t necessarily more susceptible to Romeo pimping than older people. “I think that it’s less about age per se than about vulnerability,” she explained. “I think you can argue that teenagers are more vulnerable simply by virtue of their being teenagers, with less life experience, not quite developed brains.”
In recent years, social media’s ubiquity has made it much easier for traffickers to gain access to potential victims, using features like direct messaging to establish initial contact. “It is, if not the most significant, it is certainly the fastest growing way that people are recruited,” Benjamin told Jezebel. “This is true for sex and labor trafficking.”
On Friday, Romanian authorities announced that the Tate brothers’ detainment will be extended another 30 days, according to NPR. The two men, along with two Romanian women, will be held in custody while the investigation continues.