South Carolina law defines harassment as “a pattern of intentional, substantial and unreasonable intrusion into the private life of a targeted person that causes…mental distress.” Stalking is defined by the state as “a pattern of words or conduct that is intended to cause and does cause a targeted person…to fear.”
Harassment and stalking are serious issues and can even be criminal in nature. Harassment can include:
- Following someone as they go about their day
- Unwanted contact
- Surveillance of a person’s home, school or work
- Incessant phone calls
- Sexual harassment
If you feel uncomfortable with someone’s actions, it is important to remember you have the right to communicate calmly and clearly that you want their behavior to stop. If you have clearly communicated your wishes to no avail or are afraid to personally handle the situation, you should seek family law counsel.
Send a Cease and Desist Harassment Letter
Put the stalker on notice in writing. Although the letter is not legally enforceable, it serves as evidence that you took the necessary steps to address and end the unwanted behavior and can assist in future legal cases.
Contact the Police
Involving law enforcement can be a strong way to stop harassment. You should call the police immediately if you feel physically threatened. If you already have a restraining order in place, call the police to have them enforce the order. If the situation is urgent, call 911. If it is not, you can call the regular number for your local police.
Apply for a Protective Order
A protective or restraining order is a legal document that can be enforced by the courts. After your harasser has received the notice, it is in force and can be backed up by legal action. The police can make the harasser comply through the use of fines and even jail time. In some cases, a person who ignores a restraining order can be held in criminal contempt.
Determining How to Deal with Harassment
If the person stalking or harassing you is a family member, this could create a difficult situation. A family law attorney is best suited to help you determine how to proceed. Sometimes in divorce proceedings, an angry spouse can become a harasser. There are times when harassment or stalking rises to a level where criminal proceedings are the most appropriate remedy.
Your family law attorney can give you practical advice on dealing with a family member who has become a stalker. However, if a stranger has become a harasser, involving law enforcement may be the best way to deal with the issue. The identity of the individual and the past relationship you may have had with them can be critical when determining appropriate steps.