09-08-2007, 08:31 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: NJ, USA
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There is a legal basis for stopping this person if the behavior doesn't stop. First - it's important to make sure the person has been explicitly told to stop bothering you. You should take up the police offer, and have them call and tell the person to stop - and you should make sure a record of the event has been made.
Once the person has been told to stop, repeated events may be classified as "harassment", which is defined as: "A course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose" or "Words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person." (source: Black's Law Dictionary).
A discussion from the website "haltabuse.org" describes this well:
Harassment consists of the intentional crossing of your emotional or physical safety boundaries. You must have boundaries set in place clearly in order for that to apply. The legal definition of harassment, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is:
"A course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose" or "Words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person."
This is of course a very broad definition, which state and federal legislation and common law have narrowed and refined in various ways. However, for our purposes, WHOA defines online harassment as any actions that meet the qualifications of the above definition after the harasser has been told to cease.
If someone simply disagrees with you, however strongly or unpleasantly, that isn't harassment. Someone who sends you a single email message that isn't overtly threatening probably hasn't harassed you. Spam, while very annoying, isn't harassment. And messages posted to any open venue, such as a newsgroup, a web-based board, an AOL discussion forum or a chat room, are seldom truly harassing unless they're forged to appear to come from you or contain direct threats or libelous statements. The same goes for things said on someone else's web site. Harassment usually involves repeated communications via email or some sort of instant messaging program after the harasser has clearly been told to go away.
Cyberstalking is a specific kind of harassment. The Department of Justice 1999 study on the subject defines it as "the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. Stalking generally involves harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property." Cyberstalkers frequently follow their targets around the net, frequenting in chat rooms, message boards, newsgroups or mailing lists in which the target participates. At times they will also attempt to form relationships with those who are friendly with the target in order to get more information about the target.
This is potentially an actionable offense. But if you want to protect yourself, you need to make sure that you notify the person to stop (police notice would be best), and then record each and every subsequent event - time, date, etc - all details, and keep a very organized log.
Next step though - follow up with the police - and make sure you keep your parents in the loop on all of this.