Vanessa* woke up on Wednesday morning to texts from family and friends fearing for her safety.
They were worried because Vanessa’s name and personal Facebook page were posted by Roosh V, the pseudonym of legal rape advocate and so-called ”pickup artist” Daryush Valizadeh, who is currently on a speaking tour, on his personal forum.
Roosh singled Vanessa out as an “extremist organizer” in Toronto and asked his followers to collect “intel” on her and women participating in a demonstration against rape culture on Saturday, the same day as Roosh’s planned speaking date in the city. Roosh also encouraged his followers to “seduce” and then “fuck” Vanessa and any other Toronto women that they target online. The campaign is dubbed “Operation Fornication.”
“He’s kind of telling people to go out and try to rape me, but without really saying it,” Vanessa told me in a phone interview.
In reality, far from being an organizer, Vanessa had merely posted a news article to her Facebook page, in which Toronto mayor John Tory tweeted that Roosh is not welcome in Toronto, and tagged some friends who owned bars in the city.
“I’m not going to wait for something to happen to me"
Regardless, Vanessa received friend requests on Facebook from men she has never met, and her parents began receiving unwelcome phone calls. One, she said, came from a man claiming he was from the Canada Revenue Agency and that he was going to arrest her father.
Vanessa visited the Toronto police on Wednesday night to file an incident report, she said, and spoke to an officer who wrote her complaint down in a notebook before she left. “I’m not going to wait for something to happen to me,” she told me.
At the time of writing, the Toronto police have not opened any investigations regarding Roosh, a police spokesperson said. Indeed, while harassment against women online is routine and in many cases frightening and severe, policing the internet continues to be a massive blind spot for authorities in Canada and abroad.
Vanessa isn’t alone in being targeted by Roosh or his followers during his current Canadian tour. In fact, posts on Roosh’s forum reveal a concerted campaign to identify and harass women in Canada.
“There’s thousands of people just like Roosh V. There’s nothing special about him except for the fact that he has a platform to spread his ideas"
Aurelie Nix is one of several women that Roosh identified and targeted online when he visited Montreal last week. In a post on his forum, he asked that followers collect information such as addresses, phone numbers, names of relatives, and send it to him. Forum members unearthed and posted nude photos of Nix, and made death threats toward her.
“This is one guy, and this is a very small group,” Nix said over the phone. “There’s thousands of people just like Roosh V. There’s nothing special about him except for the fact that he has a platform to spread his ideas. The whole thing needs not to be about him or the guys that go to his classes, but what do we allow?”
In response to the harassment, Nix deleted a Facebook page that hosted her modeling photos. She also filed a police report. A Montreal police spokesperson confirmed that the police are investigating posts on a “personal blog” involving Roosh that targeted specific women, although they would not say which women or which blog.
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“Women don’t expect to be attacked in this way,” said Sara Toulson, who started a Change.org petition to stop Roosh’s visit to Toronto, which has garnered more than 40,000 signatures. Toulson is also co-organizing the demonstration in Toronto on Saturday. Because of this, Roosh singled Toulson out on his forum, and she told me she’s received harassing emails, messages, and tweets as a result.
“What I’m really worried about is if they realize that they can’t attack me online, and they need to take it further,” Toulson said. “It worries me that they’re so dedicated and committed. That’s what really worries me.”
During his visit to Montreal last week, Roosh was discovered in a bar and had a beer thrown at him. A group of people then pursued Roosh as he fled down the street, before he escaped into a building. In the forum post that singles out Vanessa, Roosh indicated that “Operation Fornication” is an attempt to end resistance in Toronto before it can begin.
Despite Roosh’s attempts to bully women that he and his followers perceive to be activists or enemies, Toulson said the demonstration on Saturday will continue.
*Vanessa requested that her name and personal information be kept out of this article, due to concerns about her physical safety.