Document online harassment

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lana Hollerud

Crime Victims Resource Center

Cyber harassment is one person harassing another through emails, text messages, posts on social media, and through other forms of electronic communication.

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Cyber harassment usually takes the form of threatening messages, name-calling, or trying to control their victim’s behavior by threatening to release embarrassing pictures, videos, or information (that may or may not be true) with the goal of hurting you or harming your reputation to others.

Experiencing cyber harassment is very upsetting and sometimes embarrassing to the victim. Often, the victim’s initial reaction is to explain or defend themselves to their cyber harasser. Unfortunately, responding to the cyber harasser often makes matters worse; the harasser is a bully who feeds off of their victim’s misery. Responding in kind to the harasser with your own harassment can be tempting, but should be avoided because the harasser may now feel justified in their behavior and escalate their harassment, or you may get in legal trouble due to your own behavior. This type of harassment can escalate to cyber stalking, where the perpetrator uses information — passwords etc. — that you have given them, or they have obtained, to impersonate you on social media or other Internet forums with the intent of discrediting or humiliating you.

The first step to take if you want someone to stop communicating with you is to stop communicating with them. Often, ignoring the cyber harassment and blocking them from calling, texting or emailing you is enough to get it to stop. In those cases where they continually get through your blocks or use their own social media page to continue their cyber harassment an option to consider is reporting it to law enforcement. Even if you don’t think you want to go that route, the cyber harassment should be documented and messages etc. saved just in case it ever becomes necessary to make a police report.

It is much easier to prevent cyber harassment than it is to deal with it once it has happened. Resist the temptation to send explicit pictures to your significant other. Once a picture or video is in cyberspace you have no control over where it is sent and who is able to view it.

Staff of the Crime Victims Resource Center are available to explore with you your options regarding the cyber harassment. Under certain circumstances a harassment restraining order or an order for protection (no contact orders) may be effective interventions in your situation and we can assist you with that process. For more information please call us at 507-437-6680.