Should I bounce my stalker's emails?
February 15, 2011 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Should I bounce my stalker's emails?

I wrote this question: http://ask.metafilter.com/176772/How-can-I-get-this-insane-person-to-go-away

I'm still receiving daily emails. My email application lets me bounce emails back to certain senders (e.g. make it look like my account no longer exists without actually closing my account). I'm debating whether to do this.

Pro: he will no longer feel like he's making a connection with me (e.g. he will no longer feel like I'm receiving and reading the messages).

Cons: (1) when he came to my house, he sent me an email telling me in advance, so I imagine that if he makes another visit, he'll email me about it ahead of time again, and I'd very much like to receive that heads up. (2) I don't want him to become desperate to find an alternate way to reach me, such as my phone number or work email address.

I read the "Gift of Fear" and the author recommended leaving a phone number and voicemail available for one's stalker to leave messages. He didn't mention disconnecting the phone number (which would be akin to bouncing emails) and I'm not sure if there's a specific reason why that wasn't recommended.

I'm particularly looking for answers from folks who have related experience. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Please, please bounce the emails to the FBI or your local PD. Get them involved. They will take this seriously.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The overwhelming advice in the previous thread was to document everything and go to the police. I assume that bouncing the email would not allow you to document everything - although it doesn't seem you have pursued the police option.
posted by quodlibet at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2011


Do you have a restraining order? If not, get one. Depending on your jurisdiction, it may be possible to include email as a form of contact.
posted by Electrius at 11:01 AM on February 15, 2011


IIRC, Gift of Fear says to keep the old phone line / means of contact connected, and just give everyone you want to hear from the new number / address. The reasoning was what you suggested - your stalker is less likely to go looking for new ways to contact you if they think they have one that works.

Don't bounce him. Do contact someone - a domestic violence org might be a good choice to find out your options. Restraining orders are not always a good idea and can make you less safe.
posted by momus_window at 11:07 AM on February 15, 2011


I have been through similar and I would keep and filter the emails away, so you don't have to look at them but have them for documentation. Losing that outlet may drive him to find alternate means of contacting you, like texts/calling/showing up in person, and escalate things.

I agree with the other posters that it's of primary importance that you get the police involved asap.
posted by Sayuri. at 11:09 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does your email program not allow you to bounce the message (send back a delivery error) AND store the email?
posted by galadriel at 11:10 AM on February 15, 2011


Does your email program not allow you to bounce the message (send back a delivery error) AND store the email?

That's not the point - she doesn't want them to think the email is inactive, which might make them try to find other forms of contact, like showing up at her house.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:18 AM on February 15, 2011


In questions regarding stalking, people often urge the asker to go to the police. As someone who has been stalked, I found that the police were very unhelpful, to the point that in my case it was a waste of time. I just want to put it forward that there are people who find that the police are not there to protect them. So the advice to "go to the cops!!" is not always helpful.
posted by long haired child at 11:36 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The reason you don't bounce them is because that doesn't send the signal that you hear them and are choosing not to contact them. That message has to come through loud and clear--you're not impeded from contacting them by any software or hardware malfunction, you're not contacting them because you don't want to.

deBecker is very clear (maybe in one of his later books, rather than The Gift of Fear?) about this reasoning, which makes sense to me. Don't bounce the emails.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


The helpfulness of police definitely varies by locality and even by which officer you happen to talk with. The thing is that documenting what's going on is key, including with police reports, if for no other reason than that stalkers sometimes do stuff like fuck up your credit or harass your employer, and having police reports in hand is a strong backup to your case in those matters. The presumption by many third parties is that if you're not in touch with the police, you're not taking the issue seriously.

So even if the actual "protecting" doesn't happen, you've still got a paper trail that you might need later.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:43 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


do you have a trusted friend that knows the situation? i know some people prefer to forward the messages to someone else so if any danger is imminent, they can tell you but you don't have to be confronted with it every day.
posted by nadawi at 11:44 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could you set up a mail rule to forward the emails to a trusted friend? That way you don't have to deal with them, and your friend can advise you if there is anything you should be aware of, such as an impending visit.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:47 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't bounce the emails. As Sidhedevil says, he'll just find another way to contact you if he's intent on stalking you.

If you don't want to read them (who would?) then set up an automatic mail rule to forward them to someone who you trust who can archive them & check them for anything untoward. You'll want the archive when you go for the restraining order.
posted by pharm at 11:52 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like this situation is different since the OP barely knows the stalker and was never romantically involved. Surely the police take it seriously when a random stranger obsesses about you and tracks your movement without the slightest provocation??

OP, document and try the police if you haven't already.

I think this might be more serious than you realize. I think it's maybe beyond metafilter to give you the correct assistance to keep you safe considering your specific situation.
posted by jbenben at 11:56 AM on February 15, 2011


I feel like this situation is different since the OP barely knows the stalker and was never romantically involved. Surely the police take it seriously when a random stranger obsesses about you and tracks your movement without the slightest provocation??

No, they dismiss it in a different way from the way they dismiss stalking by an ex-partner. (And many more people are seriously harmed by ex-partner stalkers than by stranger stalkers, so.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:58 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's maybe beyond metafilter to give you the correct assistance to keep you safe considering your specific situation.

The best resource out there is a consultation with a security consultant. The second-best resource is The Gift of Fear, written by a leading security consultant.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:59 AM on February 15, 2011


Surely the police take it seriously when a random stranger obsesses about you and tracks your movement without the slightest provocation??

in my experience, sadly no. you'd be amazed what some cops think "slightest provocation" is and what some cops think is "just harmless attraction" even with very specific evidence in front of them.

by all means, try the cops, but don't hang your hopes that they are there to help you.
posted by nadawi at 12:01 PM on February 15, 2011


As I said in your previous question, the standard advice is:
If you're prepared to handle this yourself without police involvement (or the police are unhelpful): redirect his emails to a trusted friend without reading them yourself. That way you aren't tempted to reward him with contact (any contact is a reward for most people like this, sometimes even if that contact is a restraining order), you have a documentary record of what he says, and your friend can monitor the emails for escalation.
Do not bounce the emails. The two cons you identify are real.
posted by caek at 12:05 PM on February 15, 2011


I read the "Gift of Fear" and the author recommended leaving a phone number and voicemail available for one's stalker to leave messages. He didn't mention disconnecting the phone number (which would be akin to bouncing emails) and I'm not sure if there's a specific reason why that wasn't recommended.
I suspect the main reason email isn't mentioned is that the book was written in 1997.
posted by caek at 12:06 PM on February 15, 2011


I suspect the main reason email isn't mentioned is that the book was written in 1997.

I think that the OP was trying to reason by analogy with voicemail from email. And de Becker says (either there or in a later work) to keep the voicemail open, and later says to keep receiving emails, for the reasons outlined above: a) to convey the message that no circumstance other than your refusal is keeping you from communicating with the stalker; b) to give you the chance to document communications fully.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:10 PM on February 15, 2011


OP, I am so sorry that this is continuing. What a stressful thing to have to deal with. One thing that might help is just to almost "automate" the tasks of dealing with the stalker--think of it as an annoying and stressful daily chore, like giving yourself a shot or cleaning the litterbox.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:12 PM on February 15, 2011


I think the OP was wondering if email was different because it wasn't mentioned. My point was that it wasn't mentioned because it wasn't something most people used when the book was written. As I said in this question and the previous one, I agree with everything else you say.
posted by caek at 12:13 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should possibly consult an attorney and seek a civil restraining order. Your attorney can advise you with specificity as to what constitutes actionable harassment qualifying for a protective order. Most law enforcement agencies should enforce the court order, whether or not they agree with it. Between now and then, if you need law enforcement, call them. If cop qualification in your area consists of a GED and a pulse, then demand to talk to the watch commander, etc.

Also be aware that most email apps send the fake bounce message in ways that make it obvious that your account is alive and well.
posted by Hylas at 12:14 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is true that the police are often unhelpful, but that shouldn't stop the OP from starting the process with them. Bring them documentation of the whole thing and get a report filed. State that you are concerned for your safety. If they refuse, it is time to work toward a restraining order.
posted by fake at 12:32 PM on February 15, 2011


Also, I highly recommend talking to womens' rights groups in your area. If you could have a moderator post at least a state or side of the country, we can help you locate resources.
posted by fake at 12:35 PM on February 15, 2011


From the OP:
Thanks everyone for the answers and the concern.

A lot of you asked why I haven't gone to the police. I have, several times, and have filed reports with all relevant details. They told me that if this guy shows up at my house, I should call 911, and if he's still there when cops arrive, they'll arrest him. That's the extent of what the police are willing/able to do to help.

I'm not actually sure I want a restraining order (for the reasons mentioned in "The Gift of Fear"). Even if I decide that I do want one, they are handed out by courts, not by police. And the courts (at least where I live) need to see an arrest made before they issue a restraining order.

Re: phone versus email, as others have mentioned, email wasn't around when the book was written. I was using the author's advice for phone calls/voicemail because I figured it's analogous to advice for he'd give for email.

Hope this clears things up a bit. Thanks again.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:13 PM on February 15, 2011


A few reasons why bouncing emails is a bad idea: firstly this will be a change in behaviour which will signal to him that you probably did receive his last 10,000 emails, he may have been just on the verge of giving up. Secondly most email programs only process mail rules when the PC is running (not in sleep/hibernate) if he notices that all the email he sends gets bounced at a specific time of day - bingo you just told him what time you get home!
posted by Lanark at 1:30 PM on February 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


I agree with caek. Can't you forward them to a trusted friend or your spouse? Someone who will read those emails religiously and warn you of any escalation or if he's going to your house, etc. It would save you the stress of having to read his messages without making him feel that he needs some other method of contacting you.
posted by Neekee at 6:21 PM on February 15, 2011


I've have had a similar experience. If you want this to stop, you need to stop the contact he has with you. I stopped all contact. Period. I changed my phone, email address, everything. Did it work? Yes. However, the person in question didn't live near me, so showing up at my front door when my phone number was no longer in service wasn't really an option. Considering your situation I'd suggest these steps:

1. Just change your email. You can do this. Notify your work, notify your friends, everyone. It's a small sacrifice you will just need to make for your safety and sanity.
2. Give your email address/password to a trusted friend, and ask them to monitor his emails in case he plans to stop by again.
3. If you haven't already, change your phone number.

And finally, If this continues to escalate and you are afraid he might get violent, please consider trying to obtain a restraining order or moving to a new home (If that's a possibility for you). You never know what someone might do when they get this obsessed, it's scary. Just look after yourself. Let your friends and family know about this situation so you aren't in this alone.
posted by Bron-Y-Aur at 6:50 PM on February 15, 2011


Look, for stalkers, it's true that unless you have a history of violence or romantic involvement, you cannot get a restraining order UNLESS you have documented statements of violent intent against your person.

Has this person threatened to harm you... ever? If not, then he has merely harassed you.

However.

You can show proof of harassment through documentation. If, say, this person called you 17 times in one minute and the police witness it, then yes, you are being harassed.

This person emails you daily. Have you shown the police a printed copy of your email demanding this person NEVER have contact with you again?

Do that. Show them the date and time it was sent; print and show every single email he's sent since then directly afterward. If you can, show proof that this person's identity is undeniably linked to his email address (it's not his actual name or something, is it?). Keep trying different detectives and officers, and also, alert your HOA/Neighborhood Watch people.

And filter the emails you're receiving directly to a lawyer, if you can. This sucks, and it's scary and emotionally draining, and you don't deserve it.

None of this might work for a while, or it could randomly stop. As long as HE keeps trying to get to you, YOU have a choice to keep finding ways to make it end or make peace with it somehow until it ends.

My vote? Keep trying to stop it until it either stops on its own or you succeed. I know too well that ignoring things can backfire.

Don't let this beat you or mentally surrender to it if you can help it. It gets better.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:51 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


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