What to Do If Your Ex Is Harassing You Online
- Is your ex harassing you online?
- Information about cyberstalking
- What to do if you're being harassed online
- Final thoughts
Not all relationships have a happy ending. In fact, some can end messy and leave all parties hurt and distraught. Online harassment, stalking, and other abusive behaviors have become a real problem in the United States. Statistics suggest that 15% of women and 6% of men have reported being a victim of stalking, with people under the age of 25 being the most common targets.
These behaviors are all against the law in the U.S., but documenting and providing sufficient evidence can be tricky, especially if the harassment and stalking are done through social media sites and other forms of electronic communication.
Is your ex harassing you online?
If you have an ex who is sending threats or harassing you in the form of instant messages, emails, or even online posts, this is considered online harassment. Some examples may include:
- Threatening emails or DMs
- Repetitive posts on social media about you with the intent to promote fear or stress or cause defamation to your character
- They could even be reaching out to various people to try to get to you or spread information about you
Unfortunately, revenge porn is a real problem. It occurs when one person posts sexually explicit material of another (often an ex-spouse or lover) online.
A common form of online harassment is cyberstalking. Essentially, cyberstalking is when someone displays a pattern of negative and threatening behaviors electronically. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the internet, perpetrators can mask their identity, making it hard to catch them in the act.
Other examples of online harassment include:
- Signing up for multiple email lists using the name of the victim
- Hacking someone's accounts – even changing passwords and settings
- Making alternate social media accounts using fake names to harass the victim
- Sending threatening emails and DMs
- Posting a victim's personal information on the internet for people to find (otherwise known as doxxing)
Cyberbullying, which may include the sending of threatening text messages, doesn’t just happen to kids in school.
What to do if you’re being harassed online
If you even think you may be a victim of online harassment, document everything related to it. For example, if you are receiving emails, save them all in a separate folder. If you are getting DMs, take screenshots and save them somewhere. No matter the format of harassment, be sure to document it and save the proof, as this will be critical if you approach law enforcement or intend to take legal action.
Once the court system gets involved, the need for evidence is strong. In some cases, even the evidence you already have may not be sufficient. In that case, it may be wise to seek out an attorney or private investigator who specializes in social media.
Cyberstalking is against federal harassment laws. You can read more about stalking laws in the United States here.
Consider a restraining order
If you have asked your ex to stop harassing you and they continue to do so, it may be time to seek a restraining order. While some claim that restraining orders may not stop a person from doing things like stalking, it is a solid method to ensure a paper trail exists of behaviors and the steps you have taken to try to get the behaviors to cease. Once you present your evidence to the court system and they deem it is enough to grant a restraining order, you have one more layer of safety on your side.
If you are actively going through a divorce and a restraining order is needed, be sure to follow court orders exactly as they are laid out for each party. Some orders may require all communication to be done through an attorney of record. Each party will need representation.
Another thing to consider when seeking a restraining order is that the harasser will have access to your mailing address. If you are in a situation where you have moved and are scared your ex may find you, speak to a trained professional. Also note that you can list a mailing address that is separate from your physical address.
The emotional distress caused by online harassment is real. Be sure to look after not only your physical safety but also your emotional well-being during this hard time.
Most importantly, you must remain diligent and safe. Even if you feel the harassment is only online, it could shift to real life at any time. Be mindful of your surroundings and who you share your location and plans with.
It's a good idea to avoid “checking in” or tagging your specific location on social media. Doing those things may make you an easy target for the harasser to find you.
Not only is online harassment a violation of your personal boundaries, it is a violation of your civil rights. The person harassing you could face criminal charges.
As common as harassment and stalking are in the U.S., the most important thing is the safety of all parties. If you feel you are the victim of criminal harassment or stalking online, be sure to remain vigilant, save all emails and messages, and reach out to local law enforcement. In some cases, a restraining order may be necessary, but all cases are different.
ReferencesStalking Statistics & Facts
Online Harassment & Cyberstalking
Restraining Orders & Online Harassment