How to Handle a Harassing Email or Text Message

We have our phones with us all the time to stay in contact with people who need us. We can also use our mobiles to access emails and respond promptly to incoming messages, but what do you do when you are receiving unwanted calls, text messages and emails?

It’s not just that they are intrusive, harassing calls and messages create genuine feelings of fear and anxiety. It’s important to know your rights. Harassing phone calls, texts and emails are illegal. Here are some ways to take action so you can gain your privacy back.

Definition of harassing emails or texts

Harassment occurs when someone purposely aims to annoy, harass, or threaten through phone, email and text. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Making a telephone continually ring
  • Sending emails with inappropriate or distressing content
  • Using email, phone or texts to threaten or abuse
  • Making lewd, indecent, or obscene comments, suggestions, or requests over the telephone, including heavy breathing as well as silence
  • Texting or emailing offensive language or offensive topics of discussion
  • Pressuring someone to send nude or explicit photographs of themselves

Effects on victims

A big factor in harassment cases is that they cause a feeling of unease or apprehensiveness in otherwise confident and secure people. Here are some of the immediate and ongoing emotional effects of phone, text and email harassment:

  • Humiliation
  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Isolation – (feeling there is no help and no way to stop it)

As well as emotional impacts, there can be physical symptoms like stomach aches, headaches and sleep disruptions.

How to handle harassing emails, calls and texts

You want to be able to handle harassment the right way so that you have legal standing if you need to take action. Here are the step to follow:

1. Document every instance

Make sure you record every time a harassing event happens.

If the caller ID is blocked and unknown write down as much detail as you can and record:

  • Gender
  • Estimated age
  • How the voice sounded
  • Time and date of each call
  • What was said

Keep a screenshot, copy or download secured somewhere for police and lawyers to see the type of messages being sent. If the text or email messages are too distressing, get someone you trust to document them for you.

It’s best not to respond. Hang up straight away and don’t reply to harassing texts or emails.

2. Record changes to your emotional state

Keep a record of where you were and what you were doing when the harassment took place. This, along with the emotional and physical impacts you notice (directly after and long-lasting) will help to document the impact it had on your private and personal life.

3.  Block

You don’t have to keep putting up with harassment, even to document it. Mobile phones will allow you to block numbers to stop texts and calls from getting through. Email providers will also allow you to select recipients and block emails. Do this as early as possible to stop the impact of harassment.

If you can’t block the communications because it’s someone you know (ex-partner where you have shared custody, workplace emails etc.) find a mediator to help defuse the situation and offer advice.

4. Go to the police

If you feel threatened and at risk of harm, take a copy of what has happened and your documentation to the police and file a report.

5. Secure an experienced lawyer

Talk to a lawyer who is experienced in cases of Use Carriage Service To Menace, Harass Or Cause Offence as soon as possible to get an understanding of your rights and what your next steps are.

Where to go for help

Don’t treat this lightly. Phone, text and email are often shown to be more harmful than physical harassment because it can occur at any time, in public or in the privacy of the home and it can come from anonymous sources, often making it more relentless. Reach out for help.


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