Dealing with online harassment
February 6, 2015 7:11 AM   Subscribe

For the last several years I've been getting occasional sexually harassing emails and Twitter @ mentions from a specific person - not an ex, almost a stranger. I've read The Gift of Fear and have been doing my best to ignore, but... I have published a book under my real name, and intend to publish more, and I don't want to nuke my whole public Internet presence just to shake this guy. Do I have to?

Other details : He lives in my city and knows where I work and visited me at work once, but generally I'm not in fear for my safety; it hasn't reached a level where law enforcement would get involved (in my location it's not illegal harassment unless you're actually getting violent threats); I have generally been reporting things to Twitter/Facebook abuse and ISPs and not otherwise engaging. I told him to never contact me again, so it's not just a case of crossed signals.

I feel like I could tolerate this level of harassment indefinitely, but I'm scared of it escalating once I've established more of a career and it becomes even harder to start over. I'd really appreciate hearing from people who've been in a similar position and who have been able to deal with it in a constructive way.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My first step is to block the person on all social media channels, email, phone, everything. If they pop up on a different platform or with a different profile, immediate block.

There was one time when I didn't do that with someone who liked to constantly announce where he was on social media, because my thought was I wanted to see where he was so I could make sure to be elsewhere. This just made me more anxious and obsessed. Eventually, I blocked him, and that worked out well.

Also, tell your friends and family and coworkers the guy's name, and if you can pull a recent photo of him from his social media before you block him, give them that, too. Tell them you don't want to hear from him; if he ever tries to look for you, would they please handle it without involving you. One time a coworker handled a creep who came looking for me at work. She didn't call me to let me know there was a visitor or anything. She told him, "I don't think Ms. Humperdinck wants to see you, can I walk you to the door?" and it was the best possible outcome for the situation.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:40 AM on February 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

I agree, block and let others know. That should suck all the air out of this creeper.

However if the behavior escalates, do take it to law enforcement.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:12 AM on February 6, 2015

Yeah, block the fucker.

Or, another idea - if you are hesitant to block because "then I won't be able to gather things to turn over to police if he escalates it", maybe you can just mute him on Twitter yourself, and then ask a trusted friend to keep an eye on him for you. The "mute" on Twitter is like the best of both worlds - he thinks you're still reading everything he says, but....Twitter doesn't let you see it. So he is still yakking away so everyone else BUT you can see what an ass he is, and your own feed is blissfully free.

Just block him on other social media too. But maybe mute on Twitter wouldn't be a bad idea, if you have a friend who can be the one to go back and pull his icky tweets back up if you need to do so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, and as for the emails - you can also set up a separate email filter to filter all emails from the dude into a separate folder that you just never look into. Or, if that same friend is willing, you can auto-forward all his emails to them, so they can just hold onto them if you need to go to the police ever. But in the meantime, you don't see it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

He visited you at work? I'd file a report with your work security or whoever so you have a record. And at least ask the cops what you should do to best record the stalking and how they deal with it locally. I'm pretty sure that having shown up uninvited at work this is how a case of stalking not just online harrassment.

A lot of people I know seem to shoot themselves in the foot with these cases by not collecting information the police and DA can actually use. 99.9% of the time that's because they, correctly, dont take their stalker very seriously or feel they're not a threat. But showing up at your work seems pretty nuts.
posted by fshgrl at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'd add "document, document, document" to the above suggestions.
You might want a paper trail of what you've done and when in case this escalates.
Print outs, screen shots, journal, photocopies of paperwork filled out, etc.

Please be safe.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 1:10 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

What do you mean he visited you at work? You gloss over it like it's nothing, but that is a pretty big step up from tweeting something gross to someone. I would absolutely report something like that to law enforcement just so there is a record of previous, unwanted behavior so that if it DOES escalate, there is a record to point to where police may be more likely to intervene. I would also make sure your coworkers/receptionist/security at your office know what this guy looks like and call the police if he shows up.

I'm not sure that, as you say, "nuking" your online presence would really solve anything. He already knows where you work. And just as it's possible if you disappeared from the internet he'd forget about you, it's also possible that if he couldn't harass you online he'd find another way, i.e. in person. I would be blocking him from everything and reporting him as appropriate, and NOT engaging directly with him. Hopefully he will get tired of it and move on.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:06 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

« Older Where can I find more music that fuses celtic...   |   Strategies for not being physically afraid? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.