Next steps for online harassment
February 12, 2018 3:54 AM   Subscribe

A former college roommate who I don't keep in touch with anymore has been harassing me online over the last year and a half, and I'm looking for practical help with next steps.

I'd kept in touch with an old roommate for about 10 years post-college. About a year and half ago I had to cut off contact after his communications with me got increasingly scary and aggressive. The final straw was an incredibly Islamaphobic rant that he sent, looking for an affirmative response. When I sidestepped dealing with the content of the rant and asked how he was doing in general, he exploded on me, calling me an apologist for murder, an idiot, etc. etc. etc. After that I made it clear that I didn't want any contact with him. And since then I have not responded to any correspondence from this individual.

Every few months I'll get some ridiculous message, lately coming to my work email address, which I don't give out (!). I don't hear anything for a few months, and then some other message will come. Whatever, it's worrying to a degree, but I'd simply like to be left alone.

I got a message through linkedIn yesterday, subject line was "Suffer", the message was "I hope you drown in your own bathtub!"......... Ok, as if emailing me Islamaphobic garbage at my work email address wasn't crossing a line, this certainly is.

I don't want to engage this person at all in fear of escalating the situation. But I'm super tired of this, and would love to know suggestions for next steps.

I'm in New York City, and I don't know where this person is, mostly North Carolina or Arizona. I'm more than happy to get the authorities involved at this point if the conduct warrants it. For whatever reason, I'm also contacts with his Dad on LinkedIn, curious if a note to him would be a good idea or not. I know that if I was harassing people in such a way my folks would want to know so they could try and get me help, but I don't know the Dad very well so I'm not sure if it's a good idea to alert him.

But I'd like to document this behavior with authorities in the event that this ever does escalate beyond online communication. And if possible, would love to get some sort of protective order so that any contact with me is prohibited, but I don't really know the first thing about any of that.

Thanks all!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There are several things you should do that other people will be better able to cover, but one thing you can do now is tell your work if you haven't already.

Send an email to HR and IT and explain to them that a person you know who you have cut off personal contact with has started emailing you at your work address, and that at no point was this welcome or encouraged. Give them the person's name and email address. IT will be able to block their messages coming in and HR will have a record of it if the guy escalates, contacts other employees, etc. Also, if this guy is sending inflammatory things to your work email, better to get out in front of it before someone sees it and gets the wrong idea about you thinking you've got these terrible opinions.
posted by phunniemee at 4:52 AM on February 12, 2018 [12 favorites]

This guy sounds potentially dangerous frankly.

The usual advice at this point is to buy a copy of "The Gift of Fear" and read & internally digest it, but the core advice for stalkers is to:

1) Go totally no contact. Do not reward his attempts to contact you by reciprocating in any fashion whatsoever.
2) Start keeping a diary of contacts: keep copies of the emails, LinkedIn communications, whatever.
3) Pay attention to your gut. Do go to the police with all the above records if you feel physically threatened.

You have nothing to gain by contacting this person ever again & everything to lose.
posted by pharm at 5:26 AM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

The Stalking Resource Center has a ton of information, general and specific, that might be of use to you. And note that what you are describing falls under the category of stalking.

Their Incident Log has been simplified, and is a useful tool if it suits you. And note that you don't have to wait for physical threats before contacting law enforcement, some states have cyber-harassment laws.

They also have an article about technology and the workplace, which might be worth a look.

As for orders for protection, exactly what kind you might be able to file for depends on where you live. I don't know NYC, so you have to find information online (which I could't), or contact a local court. Here's information about DV protection orders in NY, and the court resources listed can point you to ways to apply for the order that fits your situation. Note that the stalking resource center has a hotline that you can call, and they will also be able to direct you.

Good luck.
posted by Gorgik at 6:19 AM on February 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

A simple step that will at least stop any further contact through Linkedin: report him to Linkedin.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:26 AM on February 12, 2018 [11 favorites]

For whatever reason, I'm also contacts with his Dad on LinkedIn,

Don't contact the dad, and unlink from him (are you absolutely sure it's him and not the son?)
posted by kapers at 8:21 AM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

My guess is that he may have guessed your work email address - generally work email follows the same naming conventions across the company so he probably just figured it out that way if anyone's email address at your company is public - but I agree that it's a good idea to let your office know that you have a stalker and they shouldn't give out your info if asked for it. Maybe HR can send out a memo to everyone without specifics asking that everyone be mindful about not giving out contact info for colleagues without checking with the person first.

I would probably preemptively block him on any social media if he's just using his own accounts for this stuff, that way he won't find you in searches. Report his LinkedIn message and block him, find and block him on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Make sure all your social media is protected and locked down.

I would personally let the police know so there is a record of it and a paper trail in case it escalates or you need to take action. This may not constitute a threat but it is harassment. The police may be able to let you know what you should or what resources are available, but perhaps not.

Do you know anyone who still knows him, other than his dad? His dad may have a similar mindset or maybe wouldn't believe that his son is crazy, so I'd look for someone less biased to alert about his behavior. And I'd tread carefully. But it's just a thought.

I'm no expert, but these are the steps I'd take. Sorry you are dealing with this.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:52 AM on February 12, 2018

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