Reporting Cyberharrassment

Once you’re the victim of cyberharassment, there is no going back; you have to do something about it, or it will never stop. When someone is stalking you in the offline world, reporting the crime is easy. All you have to do is go to your local police department and file a report, tell them who you think it is (or who it is, if you know), and let them take care of finding that person. It is quite likely that you will file a restraining as well. That’s the easy way to do it.

The victim of cyberharassment may not even be in the same state or country as the perpetrator, so reporting the crime and dealing with it are a little different than offline ‘standard’ harassment. For one thing, only 46 state currently have cyberharassment laws (unless it pertains to minors), so reporting the crime in a state with laws may not net results if the crime was committed in a state without cyberharassment laws.

First and foremost, you need to let the person who is harassing you that his or her behavior is not welcome and not acceptable. Many cyberharassment laws clearly state that unless the perpetrator is aware that the behavior is unwelcome, then there can be no criminal intent.

Print and keep a copy of every bit of electronic communication that is sent to you or about you. If the harassment is in the form of messages sent to others on your behalf, let them know what is going on, so they can save the messages as well. Don’t alter the messages, editorialize them or edit them in any way shape or form. Simply print, save, and file them with dates and full email headers if possible, to show the IP address of where the message originated. Some email programs allow you to filter messages from a certain sender and file them in a folder automatically. This is a good idea.

Another option you have is to contact the Internet Service Provider of the person who is harassing you. Just about every ISP has very specific language in their user agreement that prohibits using their service to harass someone. The ISP then can investigate the matter themselves and shut down the offending account. Sometimes a harasser can use the free computers in a public library or Wi-Fi available at many coffee shops to send the offending emails. This makes it harder to track, but not impossible. You may need the help of the police to do that kind of tracking.

Speaking of the police, get them involved as soon as possible. Police departments have the authority to go places ordinary citizens cannot, such as privacy records held by ISP’s that protect the identities of their users. The police often know the laws better than most people, so if they run into a situation that they can’t handle, they know who to call. If the offending party is in another state, the FBI usually gets involved, and if the perpetrator is in another country, INTERPOL may have to be notified.

The bottom line is, no matter where the offending messages are coming from, cyberharassment makes the victim live in fear. There are always ways to get a cyberharasser to stop, even if it may be a bit more complicated. Besides being illegal, cyberharassment can be damaging to the victim’s mental and physical health.

Have a great day!

Lawrence