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When Should You Report a Harassing Text to Police?

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By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

Harassment has left the schoolyard and taken to the cell waves in the form of texts. According to a poll in Owlcation, 96 percent of the nearly 23,000 voters in the poll have been text messaged harassed. Sometimes these messages are annoying, and sometimes they are far more harmful. When should you report a harassing text to police? The answer really depends on you and the nature of the texts.

Harassing Texts Are Illegal, but Will Police Pursue Them?

Most states have criminal laws against harassing texts, in some form or another. Harassment has a rather low level threshold: it is repeated, unwanted contact. Even spam may be considered harassing texts, but these aren't the kind in which to call the police, and if you do, don't expect any action to be taken in the near future.

The harassing texts police follow up on tend to be those that endanger health, safety, and welfare. Before contacting the police, ask the sender to stop sending them. If that doesn't work, set up an appointment to meet with police to explain the situation.

Health: Are the Texts Creating Stress and Anxiety?

Repeated text messages that are affecting your health should be reported. Everyone has different stress and anxiety thresholds, and once harassing texts have elevated you past these, it is time to contact the police. When reporting them, make sure the police understand if you have a pre-existing health condition that would make your threshold potentially lower, and especially let them know if the harassing person knows this. In extreme cases, this information can lead police to intervene after only one harassing text.

Safety: Do You No Longer Feel Safe?

If harassing texts are making you feel unsafe, these should be reported as well. Perhaps the text is menacing or stalking. If you are even contemplation changing your daily patterns to avoid certain situations warned about in the harassing texts, for fear of personal injury, contact the police.

Welfare: Are These Affecting Your Job?

Many people receive harassing texts that threaten their career, job, or livelihood. They can be sexually offensive from co-workers, giving rise to a sexual harassment claim, or as it is now termed, textual harassment. There are even some cases between co-workers that are ex-lovers that have risen to the level of revenge porn. Repeated texts from co-workers can be annoying, coming at all hours of the night asking about the progress of a project. You may want to address these with your human resources department. However, if that doesn't help, or if you have a warranted fear of retaliation, you should speak with the police. Some unwanted texts, especially ones that contain lewd photos, could give rise to a criminal arrest.

If any of these three apply to your situation, contact the police in the city in which your harasser lives. For best results, make sure you have plenty of evidence, clearly sorted, in order to make investigating your case that much easier. Police are hear to help protect your health, safety, and welfare from these menacing texts.

And if you are arrested for sending harassing texts, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Laws against all forms of cyberbullying are being taken increasingly seriously. You may not have had the courage to harass the victim face to face, but the judge will have no problem facing you.

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