Email harassment is new to the harassment field. With the advent of the Internet, harassment has taken yet another form.
A working definition of email harassment might be, “electronic communication via the Internet, intended to belittle, intimidate, abuse, or threaten another.” The email harassment might encompass one or multiple categories of legally protected categories, such as sexual harassment, racial, religious, age, or disability harassment. The type of harassment isn’t the crux but the mode of harassment-sending harassing messages via email.
If the victim feels safe in confronting the harasser, if known, request cessation of the harassment. Document date, time, location, and witnesses. If it continues, do not delete the emails but block the sender.
If harassing emails continued from a new email address, do not delete them. Send a single reply requesting cessation; copy yourself and your ISP support team, reporting the harassment. If possible, obtain the IP of the sender and include it in your notification. Contact the sender’s email provider and ISP. Outline the situation, provide copies of prior emails if requested, and lodge a formal complaint. If necessary, give them a new, confidential contact email address for you, and stop using the known email address.
Allow only trusted people with the new email address. Sometimes, using an email resender helps. (A resender is an organization that scrubs all identifying data from your emails prior to forwarding to your recipients. IP addresses, ISP provider information, and other traceable data are removed and disallow tracking back to you based on the email, itself. Your ISP will still have records, but a recipient won’t.)
If the email harassment still continues, contact law enforcement. Laws in your area may differ from those elsewhere, but know that federal law prohibits email harassment. Local authorities and statues may consider email harassment a form of stalking, and all personal protection procedures are important.
Be aware of your surroundings. Note descriptions of anyone who seems to have more than casual or passing interest in your whereabouts or actions.
Save all incoming harassing emails; forward to law enforcement if they so dictate. Keep them fully informed of any new developments.
If work-related or received in a work setting, inform your supervisor and Human Resources immediately. Do not delete the emails. Follow company procedure and cooperate fully with their investigation. If apparently coordinated with any personal email actions, notify your employer of those, as well, and any actions you have taken to date. Allow them to coordinate with law enforcement if requested.
Quote: “The age of technology that has made communication easier has also made it easier to bully and harass people.”
Source: Pauline Rennie Peyton Dignity at Work: Eliminate Bullying and Create and a Positive Working Environment
Quote: “To guard against this new form of electronic harassment employers may choose to address the various mechanisms used to harass such as e-mail, voice mail, faxes, telephones, screen savers, and the like in their policy against unlawful harassment.”
Source: Essentials of Successful Harassment Prevention
US Department of Justice; “Stalking Victimization in the United States,” January 13, 2009, found at: www.ovw.usdoj.gov/docs/stalking-victimization.pdf
US Department of Justice; “Electronic Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for First Responders,” Section 6. April 2008. Found at: ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/publications/ecrime-guide-219941/ch7-crime-categories/e-mail-threats.htm