How to deal with harassment when most of the evidence has been deleted
May 30, 2014 11:12 AM   Subscribe

One of my good friends is being harassed by a man she dated for a few months in high school. They are both in their late 20s now.

Last fall, she had been having friendly IM discussions with him. She was in the process of moving to the town he lived in, and had invited him to her housewarming party. He was very insistent that they get together. She expressed discomfort about this plan, and suggested they could go on a double date with their respective partners. He said he’d like to come over to her house that night, and she said that was not okay. He showed up that night outside her house and knocked. She didn’t answer the door, and he went around to the back door and knocked. He then texted her a description of what she was wearing. He then left.

The next day, they had a brief conversation after she thought perhaps this was the result of a misunderstanding on her part. She said that if he couldn’t respect her boundaries, she would not talk to him anymore. He protested, and she blocked him. He did not attempt to attend her party. She blocked him on IM and Facebook, and he sent a few emails suggesting that she was obviously not talking to him because of her strong feelings toward him over the course of 6 months.

Yesterday, out of the blue, she received a text that said that he hadn’t forgotten about her, and she was going to be so embarrassed when he confronted her publicly about not talking to him any more. She was very unnerved by this, and isn’t sure what the next steps to protect herself should be. Unfortunately, she deleted the conversations with him, as well as emails he has sent and all she has is the text she received yesterday.

Should she file a police report (is this even enough information to do so?), or could this potentially backfire and make him more upset?
posted by sock it to me to Human Relations (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, she should contact the police. There's no evidence of conversations, either, but they can absolutely be taken into account in harassment/stalking cases.

If it makes him more upset, then he was looking for a reason to get upset -- her reacting or her "ignoring" him are equally likely to "backfire."
posted by Etrigan at 11:16 AM on May 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think the text she received yesterday is creepy and controlling enough on its own. He is stalking her and she should respond appropriately (no contact order, alerting authorities, making family and friends aware of her safety needs).
posted by mitschlag at 11:18 AM on May 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

She should contact the police and explain what has happend. They'll take a report.

Agree that she also needs to let people that she knows, know what's going on so that they can help protect her.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:19 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is stalking, and she should absolutely contact the police. Stalkers and abusers bank on the fear of what might happen if they're upset in order to continue to stalk and abuse.

No matter what actions she takes, and no matter how he might react to those actions, how he behaves is not and will never be her fault.
posted by scody at 11:24 AM on May 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

Check with your police department IN PERSON - the language may rise to the level of misdemeanor
criminal threatening.

Texting her a description of what she is wearing because she did not answer her door is also threatening , and I would include this detail.

Pull and print all the phone records from that time period. Highlight his number for calls and texts. With a little deduction, your friend can pinpoint the night he came by uninvited.

That should be enough, although likely, your friend will have to go in front of a judge to get some kind of protective order, that said, filing charges on the current contact as a criminal threat will be very very helpful to her case.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:29 AM on May 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, her phone records between now and then prove she did not contact him in the interim, at least via phone or text, and that they are no longer on speaking terms.

Handy thing those cell phone records!

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:31 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you all for confirming what I had thought.

She asked me if I could follow up with:
Can you ask specifically if he is notified if I file a report?
And does he know it's me?

She also mentioned that part of her concern is related to the fact that he collects swords and is concerned about retaliation against her and/or her pet.
posted by sock it to me at 11:34 AM on May 30, 2014

The sword thing is something to tell the police.

She needs to talk to the police, not us. I understand her fear, but she requires professional assistance.

After she talks to the police, she can start phoning victims and domestic violence helplines for more resources.

AskMe is not a substitute for professional or official intervention.

(I feel like it's worth mentioning that via recent current events, your friend is likely to be taken more seriously by the police, especially if she shows up with her cell phone records printed and annotated.

Similarly, this guy going after her picked the wrong week to make such a threat in writing. Wow.)
posted by jbenben at 11:49 AM on May 30, 2014 [17 favorites]

An officer is coming over to take a report as we speak. Thank you all so much.
posted by sock it to me at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2014 [24 favorites]

As her final follow-up: Thank you all so much for your encouragement. The police officer agreed that this was weird and threatening as he filed the report and recommended I file a restraining order. I'm still a little concerned about how Creepy Dude is going to react, but I am confident I did the right thing by reporting this. Again, thank you all!
posted by sock it to me at 12:38 PM on May 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

As it (shockingly) hasn't been mentioned yet: also encourage her to pick up Gavin DeBecker's book The Gift of Fear. It is one of the best and down-to-earth books on how to deal with stalking and similar topics out there.
posted by thebrokedown at 12:55 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please encourage your friend to file the restraining order ASAP.

There's all kinds of shit Creepy Dude can do while there's no RO in place, and while police may come and take a report on it, they might not necessarily be able to really do anything about it without the RO.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:02 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

could this potentially backfire and make him more upset?
Can you ask specifically if he is notified if I file a report?
And does he know it's me?

The answer is that since this is relating to a very specific interaction, yes, he will know. It will be impossible for the police to question him in such a way that he does not know "it's her".

I recommend your friend take this into account, because this can actually be the most dangerous time in a stalking case. If there is a possibility he could become violent, and this is something your friend should take seriously, she may want to take steps to protect herself -- as simple, perhaps, as staying with a friend and taking a different route to work. (Indeed, the police are known to suggest arming oneself in this situation, not that I'm making that recommendation.)

Unfortunately, she deleted the conversations with him, as well as emails he has sent and all she has is the text she received yesterday.

Your friend may wish to speak to an attorney, as there are legal means to request this information from the telephony provider under evidence preservation rules. It may also be possible to recover this information directly from the phone using technological means.

Still, a TRO is probably possible with the information provided. They used to give them out before cell phones were around, you know. After it is in place, violations will automatically be evaluated for criminality, and evidence of those will be massively more important than anything said before the TRO was obtained. TINLA, IANAL, your friend should definitely be consulting with an attorney on this matter.
posted by dhartung at 1:14 PM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

You don't say what kind of pet it is, but if it's an animal that has free indoor/outdoor access she may want to keep them inside only. And if it's a dog she has to walk, make sure she brings her phone with her at all times, etc.
posted by radioamy at 2:10 PM on May 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

OP, please encourage your friend to read The Gift of Fear, specifically the sections on stalking & restraining orders, as part of making the decision on whether or not to get a restraining order. The police will want her to get one, because it makes things easier for them procedurally. But whether they're effective or not varies depending on the stalker, it isn't always the best option safety-wise.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I sent her a kindle copy of the Gift of Fear right after it was suggested. We've also started coming up with safety plans, and have at least this weekend totally covered. I really appreciate the responses/messages and really helpful information, it's been really helpful in showing her that she wasn't being unreasonable in feeling scared.
posted by sock it to me at 5:41 PM on May 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

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