Coping with Harassment
Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, by any means including by use of telephone, harasses another by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her, shall be guilty of an offence. Non-fatal offences against the person act. 1997
Talking to someone
Harassment can take many forms:
- Physical such as gestures, touching, following, damage to property
- Verbal such as name calling, taunting, shouting, persistent criticism, offensive voicemails, threats or offensive language
- Written such as offensive notes, emails, texts or letter
- Display such as lewd pictures, covert photographs
- Behaviour such as isolation, non-cooperation at work, exclusion from social events
- Use of social media A major difficulty is the persistent and on-going nature of such harassment. While any one incident could be regarded as a ‘minor’ event, it is the cumulative effect of living day after day with the fear and the anxiety that really affects most people. Another difficulty is that there is often no evidence that the harassment has taken place, and this means the Gardaí may find it difficult to take any action, even though you tell them exactly what is happening.
If you are a victim of harassment you may feel
- that nobody is taking you seriously, and that something terrible will have to happen before you are really believed
- that you have no option but to move out of your neighbourhood
- that you have no option but to leave your workplace
- afraid to answer your phone or look at your text messages
- afraid to go away from your home in case damage is done while you are away
- anxious and afraid any time that you leave your home
- worried about the effects on your children
- afraid that if you report each incident that the Gardaí will think you are a nuisance or will not believe you
- afraid that if you report the crime the situation my get worse for you.
- Keep a written record of every incident. Write down the time and place of the incident, with as much detail as possible, and note any person who saw what happened and who may be a witness in any criminal proceedings.
- Report the crime to the Gardaí. Harassment is a crime. It is important that you report it and that you make a statement to the Gardaí about what is happening. Each incident should be reported to the Gardaí. If an incident is serious it should be reported immediately to the Gardaí.
- Consider mediation. Especially if it is harassment in your neighbourhood, this non-confrontational approach may provide the best long-term outcome for you. However mediation is not possible and not advisable in some situations.
- Keep all texts, voicemails, emails or copies (screenshots) of social media comments, as they will be useful in any investigation that may take place.
- Contact your telephone service provider for advice if harassment is by telephone. Each provider has a policy on dealing with this issue. If the harassment is via social media, you can report if to the relevant social media organisation. You can block a person from making contact with you on most social media sites.
- Avoid being drawn into a dispute. Do not shout back, or retaliate. If you do it is less likely that any case will succeed against the person who is harassing you. If the harassment is happening in a public authority housing area, ensure that you report it to the County or City Council. If the harassment is happening in the workplace you should report it to your employer.
Talk about your feelings with someone you can trust – a family member, a friend, a colleague. Going through this experience is very difficult and it is important to have as much support as you can. Sometimes it may be helpful to talk to someone who is completely outside the situation. There may be an organisation in your area which offers free and confidential support to victims of crime.
You can call the Crime Victims Helpline which is a free and confidential helpline, at 116006. Volunteers provide emotional support and give information about other services that can help. If your emotional state is very painful, or if painful emotions persist it may be helpful to see a GP and get medical advice on dealing with the situation.