How can I get someone to stop harassing me?
September 15, 2006 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Six months ago my fiance posted a question asking for advice on how to stop a female friend who had flipped out after our engagement and started to harass me via text message. Unfortunately, it's still going on...

After I told her that my fiance and I were engaged, a female friend of mine (I'm a woman too, btw) started harassing me...telling me she wanted to sleep with me, insulting me, trying to provoke me, and just generally making life miserable. Although she has never been threatening, getting these messages every other week or so is getting pretty wearing.

I'm considering getting a restraining order, not only to stop the harassment but also to keep her from somehow crashing my wedding. Has anyone taken out a restraining order? How much time and energy did it take? Also, does anyone have any advice on how to get her away from me? Ignoring her hasn't worked.

posted by christinetheslp to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Was there any sort of bi-curious activity or history with this chick? If not she sounds like she has some hidden lust for you. Anyway, have you changed your phone number and can you avoid her physically?
posted by evilelvis at 8:36 PM on September 15, 2006

I don't know anything about restraining orders, but If you're on Verizon you can have text messages turned off on your phone. The sender gets a message saying "unable to deliver message". That might help...
posted by blue_beetle at 8:40 PM on September 15, 2006

Change your phone number.
posted by chiababe at 8:41 PM on September 15, 2006

I know someone that went through the whole restraining order stalking business...I learned a bit about it through her.

No two stalking situations are the same, but it helps to get to the heart of the matter. Did she feel unloved after you announced your intentions? Perhaps she feels something for you or your fiance in a romantic sort of way?

Here is some advice that I can give you, take what you will.

Don't change your phone number because it may encourage her to put more energy into bothering you

If you do get a restraining order, keep a record of all behavior, phone calls, etc and contact police

Do not threaten or humilate her because it may make her more angry.

Do not argue or negotiate terms with her to get her to leave you alone.

Don't show emotion

Don't return phone calls, letters, or gifts because it lets her know that she can get your attention
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 8:53 PM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ignoring her hasn't worked.

I've always wondered if "upping the ante" would work. The idea behind it is that you go a trillion times more crazy and get them to fear for their very lives. Shit like arson, paying crackheads $50 to go into his or her place of work and suckerpunch them while screaming about the drugs they owe them, forging threatening letters to the President from them, impersonating them, identity theft, paying a ex-lineman $1000 to follow them in clear sight for 72 hours straight, not ever letting them rest or sleep, that sort of thing.

Note that illegal activities will probably get you sent to jail, but if you have the resources for insane counterharassment I always wanted a data point on it. It's what I'd do if all else had failed.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:54 PM on September 15, 2006 [5 favorites]

Don't change your phone number because it may encourage her to put more energy into bothering you

but anything one might do in that situation, including getting a restraining order, may cause her to put more energy into that ... she's not a rational person

at least there won't be any more text messages

oh, and optimus chyme ... the advice you gave was horrible
posted by pyramid termite at 9:06 PM on September 15, 2006

Tell your mutual friends that she is acting really crazy. Also, treat her like a mental patient by kindly saying, I think you really need help. Being sweetly condescending will possibly make her feel super embarrassed and get her to go away completely.

Have you made it sufficiently clear that you two are no longer friends and that her behavior is completely out of line?

You could always start a blog and copy her text messages, voice mail audio and stuff onto it. That will get her to stop acting insane, maybe.
posted by onepapertiger at 9:31 PM on September 15, 2006

Obtaining an RO is a pretty simple process. Generally, you go to the clerk's office and fill out some paperwork alleging what Stalker is doing. Then a judge looks at the petition and determines whether your allegations merit a hearing. If they do not, then the case basically ends. If they do, then the judge issues a temporary RO and you then get a court date within a couple weeks to have a hearing about getting a permenent RO.

Don't contact her; if you try to obtain an RO, it does not look good if you are calling her back. It just makes your relationship look like back-and-forth nonsense. Just keep a log of all of the stalking behavior so you don't forget anything during the hearing.

IANAL & this is not legal advice.
posted by gatorae at 9:56 PM on September 15, 2006

Most phone providers allow you to block certain numbers, for a nominal fee. Don't return her calls, block her email address, IM name, etc.

Don't try to be nice, don't return her calls, just cut her off. SHe does not deserve pity or kindness and you do not need to let her down easy. A friend wouldn't treat you this way, so you don't need her in your life.

Shut her out completely and she will go away.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:38 PM on September 15, 2006

You didn't say that you'd directly approached her, asked her politely to stop her sexual comments and insults, and told her that you expected this to be the end of it. Until you've done that, in firm tones that leave no uncertianty about your wishes, and given her an honest, one shot opportunity to react peaceably to your request, without letting it devolve into a cat fight or derail, you haven't done the most direct thing.

She may use this opportunity to "go off" on you, so this isn't something you have to do alone, but give some thought to shotgun riders and circumstances. You don't want to do this in a place, or a way, that focuses undue attention or embarrasment on any party. Sure, it's a confrontation, but it needn't be as unpleasant as you may be making it in your mind. And if there are issues beyond those you've related here driving the other woman's behavior, it may be the only way of getting them out in the open, and resolved.

You can't send a boy(friend) to do a girl's work.

I do that, at least, before going the RO route. If she thinks you are a chickensh_t, she may interpret an RO as evidence that you are physically afraid of her, and she may be goaded by it into confronting you at place and time of her choosing, which you don't want. More than once, I've seen an RO precipitate the very sort of ambush confrontation it was sought to prevent.
posted by paulsc at 10:41 PM on September 15, 2006

I'm assuming that you've told this woman flat out that she's behaving inappropriately and you don't want her to contact you EVER AGAIN. If you haven't done that, I think that's the first step (and I'd follow paulsc's advice on how to do that). If you have told her that explicitly and she's still harassing you, I think you need some expert advice.

Read The Gift of Fear. It contains several chapters with advice on how to deal with situations exactly like yours. Basically, the author, who runs a private security firm and has dealt with hundreds of stalking cases with varying threat levels, says that restraining orders tend to work best on people who don't really understand that their behavior is inappropriate until a judge or a cop tells them that it is. If your stalker (and that's what she is if she's been harassing you for six months) already knows her behavior is wrong and is still doing it anyway, you may want to consider other courses of action.

I'd recommend consulting a lawyer who specializes in domestic abuse cases. It may sound odd, but they're likely to be well-versed in the options for ending a personal relationship like this with an unstable person, and they're likely to know who to talk to if you need other expert advice. It doesn't sound as though she's like to hurt you, but these people will know how best to get her out of your life.
posted by Amy Phillips at 10:48 PM on September 15, 2006

Ignoring her hasn't worked.

Quick question: Have you consistently ignored her these past six months? If not, how long have you ignored her and by ignored I mean, totally and completely ignored?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:49 PM on September 15, 2006

A big second to Amy Phillips' advice. The author of "The Gift of Fear" (who also creates profiling databases/software for law enforcement agencies, and has protected a lot of celebrity clients from stalker loons) has some very applicable insights. There's one story about a stalked couple who complain "ignoring [him] hasn't worked." It turns out that they've been ignoring for X number of days/weeks at a time, then getting fed up each time and doing something like, "Stop calling!!" His advice: this only teaches your stalker that X number of calls [texts|whatever] is the amount of contact required to get your attention. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

His advice: if you've had any contact with the stalker whatsoever after having resolved not to, then you haven't yet tested what "ignoring her" gets.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:32 PM on September 15, 2006

I did send her an email six months ago explicitly stating that our friendship was over and I never wanted to hear from her or see her again. It didn't work.

And I have consistently ignored her. The only time I caved was once when she asked me to return a present she gave me and threatened to send someone after me if I didn't. I sent it to her workplace in hopes of drawing attention to her, but it didn't work.

But yes, ignoring is hard...I've probably been driving my fiance crazy since I vent to him because I can't yell at her. :-)

Thanks for the advice everyone!
posted by christinetheslp at 5:46 AM on September 16, 2006

oh, and optimus chyme ... the advice you gave was horrible
posted by pyramid termite at 9:06 PM PST on September 15

I don't necessarily disagree, pt. I think that in most circumstances, ignoring them until they realize they can't get a rise out of you, can't get a reaction or attention, is by far the most productive and successful strategy.

But I do believe that many of us, in our quest to be normal and civilized, forget that crazy stalkers still need money, still need a place to sleep, still need legs to move and hands to write insane little missives to their targets.

If we were seriously having this problem - if I feared for my life or Mrs. Chyme's - we would seriously consider moving. But as a last resort, if all else failed, I would be willing to cripple or kill anyone who threatened us. Knowing the insane bravado of the stalkers I've met, the easiest way by far would be to wait until they show up at your door, like they invariably do, and shoot them until they are dead. But you better have a good attorney.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:23 AM on September 16, 2006

You might choose to find a lawyer to write to her clearly stating that you wish to have no contact of any sort.

Document all the calls and emails. Print out the email, copy your cell phone bills and highlight the harrassing calls. If you have calls to the stalker, note those as well (It will come up). Keep a log of all harassment. Temp. Restraining Orders are almost always granted. She may also get one against you, just for more harassment. Then you take the documentation to court to get a Protection Order, that keeps her off your property, place of work, etc., and prohibits contact for a specified period of time.

There should be a family protection agency or legal aid agency in your area. They can help you file the paperwork. If the stalker knows you're afraid the wedding will be crashed, get a picture of her and her car if you can, and copy it for your 10 best pals, along with a copy of the order. If they see her, her car or any sign of her, they call the police immediately, and do not interact with her in any way.

Stalkers can get very intense. Take it seriously, and expect the people around you to take it seriously. Get caller id. Program her home, work and cell numbers to say "DO NOT ANSWER." Then ignore her, don't make her a topic of conversation, build a mental wall.
posted by theora55 at 9:05 AM on September 16, 2006

A RO isn't the way you want to go, unless she's credibly threatening harm, at which time it's the first thing you do, but not until then.

Paulsc has the right idea, which is to have a sit-down with her and let her know that her behavior is unacceptable and that she must stop. Meet her somewhere public like a coffeeshop where you can sit down, look her in the eye, and ask her to stop. Then ask her if she understands what you're saying. Ignore any drama and keep your emotions totally out of it. Your only goal is to get her to say that she understands you want her to stop, at which point you end the meeting and walk away. If you're not going to get her to say that, end the meeting and walk away.

Then continue with passive avoidance.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2006

Why should our asker have a sit-down with someone she's clearly told to leave her alone and has consistently ignored?

Honestly, I never understand this "You should explain things to them" position. These cases involve someone acting in a totally irrational way, and trying to "reason" with them only feeds them and stresses you out.

You don't owe this lady anything. She knows full well you don't want contact; she just doesn't care.

In your place, I'd cut her off completely (no more feeling like you have to be a decent person and "return" anything involving her - that just teaches her that she can exploit your fair-mindedness), and if she behaves in a way that suggests she's planning to do harm, get the police involved.

In the meantime, of course, you're very right to learn about restraining orders and so on, although your immediate tasks are probably just stuff like blocking her contacts so she can't ring through to you, and other ways to "build the wall" (of containment that keeps her out of your thoughts) as theora55 advises.
posted by caitlinb at 4:08 PM on September 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

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