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Reporting harassment

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This page lists some strategies you might want to consider when reporting harassment.

Note: do not coerce/pressure people to reportEdit

The authors of this page oppose coercion to report. Whether a target of harassment or abuse decides to report is their decision. We rather intend to give you some resources that might help you prepare a report if you decide to do so.

How to reportEdit

We suggest that your report have two key things:

  1. a clear description of the harassment
  2. a statement of what it is you want the contact to do about the harassment

This makes it less likely that they will not understand, or pretend to not understand, that you want action taken. It also creates some evidence that they were asked to act, so that they cannot claim later that there was no specific thing they were supposed to do. Occasionally also someone is under specific instructions to not do anything about complaints without a specific call to action.

Other useful things to include:

  1. evidence, such as copies of harassing emails or letters, dates of phone calls or in-person actions

You may wish to store both copies/records of harassing contact and of complaints you made.

Sample reportEdit

Dear NAME,
I wish to report that I was harassed by <NAME/EMAIL/HANDLE>, who <MANNER OF HARASSMENT>. [Optional: This harassment has had <EFFECT ON ME>.] Since you have <RELATIONSHIP WITH HARASSER>, I request that you take the following action:
<LIST OF ACTIONS>
[Optional: I request that you treat this complaint in confidence and not reveal identifying information about me to <HARASSER> or <SOME OTHER PEOPLE>.]
[Optional: I have already separately reported this harassment to <OTHER AUTHORITY> and they have taken <ACTION>.]
[Optional: a fuller account of their harassment/emails with full headers follows.]
<YOUR NAME>

Who to report toEdit

We are collecting a list of contacts for reporting harassment for geek communities, including employers and professional bodies. Please add to it!

The harasser's employerEdit

Involving employers in disputes unrelated to someone's professional life can have unwanted side-effects (such as them attempting to involve your employer too), however, you might consider reporting to an employer if:

  • you are being harassed using company resources, such as from a work email address, fax machine or telephone number
  • the harasser claims that their actions were encouraged by their employer, such as being a marketing ploy or a customer outreach activity
  • you are being harassed by someone acting as a representative of their company, such as someone who is attending an event and wearing badges or distributing business cards with the company's name on it or soliciting business for the company
  • you are being harassed privately by someone whose job requires them to maintain good public standing or who wields a great deal of authority in their job, such as an employee of a feminist organisation, a politician, a police officer, a doctor or a lawyer. For many professions you may be able to look up their professional ethics standard and find out if their behaviour outside of work is governed by their professional affiliation.

Possible actions to request:

  • "tell me whether or not the actions of <HARASSER> were authorised or approved by your organisation"
  • "confirm whether or not <COMPANY> has policy that prohibits <HARASSER>'s behaviour"
  • "confirm for me that you will speak with <HARASSER> and make it clear to them that their behaviour is unacceptable and must stop immediately"
  • "immediately provide me with a new contact/account manager at <COMPANY>, as I cannot do business with <HARASSER> any longer"
  • "terminate my account with <COMPANY> effective immediately" (obviously, this will depend on contracts you have in place)
  • "do not allow <HARASSER> to represent <COMPANY> in this capacity again as <HARASSER> is harming your company's image"
  • "re-consider <HARASSER>'s employment with your company"
  • "assist me in referring <HARASSER>'s actions to law enforcement"

The harasser's professional bodyEdit

This might be, for example, a medical registration board, or the bar organisation for lawyers. You might consider this if your harasser is an individual who has a professional membership that governs their private behaviour. You may possibly also do this if your harasser is about to join such a profession (eg they are a medical student). Possible actions to request:

  • "confirm whether or not <HARASSER>'s behaviour violates your ethical code"
  • "confirm for me that you will sanction <HARASSER> according to your profession's standards" (you might make specific reference to their ethics code if you have read them)
  • "open disciplinary proceedings against <HARASSER> to consider their deregistration from <PROFESSION>"
  • "do not allow <HARASSER> to register as a practicing member of <PROFESSION>"
  • "assist me in referring <HARASSER>'s actions to law enforcement"

The harasser's educational institution Edit

Much as in the case of an employer, in some circumstances you might choose not to involve an educational institution in a student's external activities. But again there are some circumstances where you might consider it:

  • you are being harassed using institutional resources, such as a institutional email address, fax machine or telephone number
  • the harasser claims that their actions were encouraged by their institution, such as claiming that the actions are part of a research study or project for assessment
  • you are being harassed by someone acting as a representative of their institution, such as someone attending or speaking at a conference in their role as a researcher

Possible actions to request:

  • "tell me whether or not the actions of <HARASSER> were authorised or approved by your organisation"
  • "confirm whether or not <HARASSER> has ethics approval for this research [or assessment]"
  • "give me the contact details of the project's chief investigator [or the course's teacher] and <INSTITUTION>'s ethics review board so that I can ask that <HARASSER>'s project be reviewed"
  • "confirm whether or not <INSTITUTION> has policy that prohibits <HARASSER>'s behaviour"
  • "confirm for me that you will speak with <HARASSER> and make it clear to them that their behaviour is unacceptable and must stop immediately"
  • "do not allow <HARASSER> to represent <INSTITUTION> in this capacity again as <HARASSER> is harming your institution's image"
  • "re-consider <HARASSER>'s enrolment with your institution"
  • "assist me in referring <HARASSER>'s actions to law enforcement"

The harasser's ISP Edit

In the case where the harassment is occuring online service, you may be able to trace the harasser via email address or IP address to a particular ISP.

ISPs typically do not heavily police the actions of their users and may refuse to assist you unless law enforcement is also involved, but at the very least, you have a recorded complaint that may be useful if the person's behaviour is systemic.

Actions you could request:

  • "tell <HARASSER> to stop using this service to harass people"
  • "monitor <HARASSER>'s Internet activity for threats"
  • "deregister/block <HARASSER> from using this service"
  • "provide me/law enforcement with identifying information about <HARASSER>'s account"
  • "assist me in referring <HARASSER>'s actions to law enforcement"

Admins of online services (forums, etc) Edit

In the case where the harassment is occuring on an online service, you can consider reporting harassment to the leaders or technical administrators of the service.

Actions you could request:

  • "develop and enforce anti-harassment policy on your service"
  • "confirm whether or not <HARASSER>'s behaviour violates existing anti-harassment policy"
  • "tell <HARASSER> to stop using this service to harass people"
  • "make <HARASSER> invisible to me, so that I cannot see their messages, whether public or private"
  • "monitor <HARASSER>'s postings for threats"
  • "deregister/block <HARASSER> from using my part of this service, or give me instructions on how to do so" (a particular forum or chat room, say)
  • "deregister/block <HARASSER> from using this service"
  • "provide me/law enforcement with identifying information about <HARASSER>'s account"
  • "assist me in referring <HARASSER>'s actions to law enforcement"

Conference or event organisers Edit

In the case where the harassment is occuring at an event, you can consider reporting harassment to the event organizers.

Actions you could request:

  • "develop and enforce anti-harassment policy for your event"
  • "confirm whether or not <HARASSER>'s behaviour violates existing anti-harassment policy"
  • "tell <HARASSER> to stop harassing people at this event"
  • "ask <HARASSER> to cease attempting to interact with me at this event"
  • "record <HARASSER'S> behaviour for monitoring"
  • "remove <HARASSER> from their position among the event organizers/staff/volunteers"
  • "ask <HARASSER> to leave the event"
  • "ban <HARASSER> from future events"
  • "assist me in referring <HARASSER>'s actions to law enforcement"

See also an event organizers' guide to responding to harassment reports.

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