Online group creates rape fears at U of M

Posted at 10:49 PM, Feb 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 16:14:55-05

An online group called The Return of Kings is sparking outrage nationwide, with a proposed national meet-up.

The group promotes misogynistic views and the organizer once even called for the legalization of rape.

Four Michigan locations were published on the site as places where meet-ups could occur, including Ann Arbor, Clinton Township, Lansing and Rochester Hills. All of the locations have since been 'scrubbed' from the website.

The website's creator, Roosh Valizadeh, wrote, "I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6."

The meet-ups were scheduled for Saturday. 

The website said they would be the first of many. The following instructions were posted:

To identify your fellow tribesmen, ask the following question to a man you suspect is there for the meetup: “Do you know where I can find a pet shop?” If you are asked this question, answer in the affirmative: “Yes, it’s right here.”

The bizarre and disturbing group is creating some fear on campus at the University of Michigan, near one of the proposed meets.

"The way they presented their views also promoted violence towards women and belittling them, saying a woman's worth is only her beauty and fertility," said Wendy Cortes, a grad student at the University of Michigan.

Cortes said she's seen a lot fear on social media about the meets.  Many women posting their fear to leave their homes on Saturday and urging others to stay inside or  travel in groups.

Cortes said she even contemplated not doing an interview with 7 Action News because of the fear surrounding the group, but she felt it needed to be done.

"I understand why some people did not want to speak, I respect that, but I need to speak up, someone needs to do it," said Cortes.

Cortes said she hopes people realize how serious the issue of rape is and that while some call this an online hoax, it's not a laughing matter.

She believes the meet ups will continue to happen.

"I still believe it's going to take place, and now they've just gone into hiding to prevent protests and people from interfering in their activities," said Cortes.

The University of Michigan has partnered with the Ann Arbor police and is taking the possible threat seriously.

The University released the following statement:

At the University of Michigan we do not tolerate violence of any kind against members of our community.

The U-M Division of Public Safety and Security is aware of an event being promoted through social media that is scheduled to take place Feb. 6 near campus.

DPSS is working collaboratively with the Ann Arbor Police as well as other local, state and federal law enforcement partners to monitor the situation.

It’s important to note there is no known criminal activity tied to this group.

While one of this university’s core values is the freedom to speak freely, the university does not share the same views as the group organizing a “meet up” for like-minded men. 

We remain committed to providing a safe, welcoming and respectful campus environment where our community can live and learn without fear of hostility or reprisal based on who they are or what they believe.

Many students, parents, staff and faculty have reached out to express concern or voice their outrage regarding the planned “meet up.”

The strong and unequivocal response of condemnation of this group by the university community demonstrates that our community values respect for all persons and rejects language and actions that promote sexual and gender-based violence.

Some may have experienced emotional distress, fear, anger, anxiety or helplessness; others may have questions about their safety or the safety of those they care about after seeing posts about this event.  For those seeking emotional support, SAPAC's confidential Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 734-936-3333, as well as Housing staff and the Dean of Students staff.

The U-M Division of Public Safety and Security reminds us that prioritizing one's personal safety is always a good idea. Risk of attack by a stranger may be reduced by:

  • Being aware of your surroundings and looking assertive.
  • Walking with a friend or co-worker in well-lit areas.
  • Trusting your intuition – if a particular situation makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, choose an alternative.
  • Keeping rooms locked at all times.
  • Utilizing campus transportation resources.

If you feel threatened or see suspicious behavior, call 9-1-1.