Popular YouTube gaming creator Jared “ProJared” Knabenbauer is being accused of soliciting nude photos from fans, including at least two people who were underage.
Knabenbauer is a gaming personality on YouTube with around 1 million subscribers who has appeared on other popular channels, including Game Grumps. But Knabenbauer has now been accused of abusive behavior toward his wife, popular cosplayer Heidi O’Ferrall, and asking that fans send him nude photos over a period of years. One of those fans claims Knabenbauer knew he was underage when it happened.
While the alleged behaviors took place across multiple online platforms, they speak to the trouble platforms like YouTube face in protecting younger users from a fandom that can make them vulnerable to a predatory adult. Just last week, popular YouTuber Austin Jones was sentenced to 10 years in prison for soliciting sexually explicit photos from underage fans.
The first accusations surfaced late Wednesday night after Knabenbauer announced that he and O’Ferrall were filing for divorce. O’Ferrall then accused Knabenbauer of having gaslit and otherwise behaved abusively toward her, prompting other people to speak out about feeling used by Knabenbauer. Fans said Knabenbauer would often send unsolicited, sexually explicit photos to them on Snapchat or would send risqué photos unprompted.
Knabenbauer had been requesting nude photos from fans for years, O’Ferrall says. “In the beginning, it was a joke on Tumblr” meant for consenting adults, she writes. But eventually, O’Ferrall says it turned into “an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he’s a popular internet man.”
One individual who goes by Chai said Knabenbauer had requested nude photos and “spoke sexually” to him while knowing he was 16. In a statement posted to Twitter, Chai alleges that Knabenbauer eventually sent him an explicit “dick pic,” and that he publicly posted one of the underage photos sent by Chai. “I sent him many actual, real nudes,” Chai said on Twitter. “He knew I was 16.”
Chai said that he deleted his Tumblr blog shortly after the encounter. “Jared told me I was awful, so lost all evidence” of these communications, he said. In a follow-up post, Chai said Knabenbauer knew that he “was a big fan, and that I was underage, and still wanted to talk sexually to me. He made me feel special and wanted.” Chai declined to comment further when reached by The Verge.
Another individual, who goes by Charlie, also posted a lengthy statement on Twitter describing experiences with Knabenbauer while underage. Charlie said they sent sexually explicit photos to Knabenbauer when they were around 15 or 16. Knabenbauer allegedly messaged Charlie back, calling them “beautiful.” Following multiple sexual conversations, Charlie says Knabenbauer invited them to a secret Tumblr where Knabenbauer posted sexually explicit photos of himself and snapshots sent in by fans.
The accusations are already causing concern at NormalBoots, the creator collective Knabenbauer belongs to. In an email posted by Chai, NormalBoots general manager Jacque Khalil said that the company is taking the matter seriously. “We will be conducting an investigation of the allegations set forth in your complaint,” said Khalil. “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention, and for your anticipated cooperation.”
In an email to Chai, NormalBoots indicated that it had deleted copies of photos he’d sent to Knabenbauer. NormalBoots said the photos were “illegal to possess and we have deleted them in accordance with state and federal law.” Khalil also asked Chai not to send any more of the images involved in the case, as it is “illegal to create and transmit such images.” The Verge has asked NormalBoots for an update on the investigation and comment on Knabenbauer’s presence within the organization.
So far, Knabenbauer has not publicly responded to the allegations. In his initial statement about his divorce from O’Ferrall, he noted that people “may see a lot of rumors, speculation, and gossip going around. I ask that you make your own observations and come to your own conclusions.” The Verge has reached out to Knabenbauer for comment.
Still, many in the community have begun to distance themselves from the once-beloved YouTube personality. Game Grumps, an extremely popular creator collective, has started to delete past videos that Knabenbauer appeared in. Knabenbauer’s personal YouTube channel has lost approximately 30,000 subscribers over the last day, according to SocialBlade, and popular streamers like HBomberguy even live-streamed Knabenbauer’s channel falling below 1 million subscribers in light of the allegations.
Update (May 9th, 3:30 pm ET): YouTube declined to comment on the story.