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Echo Press Editorial: How to defuse online harassment

A new kind of harassment is taking hold in Douglas County, one that uses Facebook, emails, text messages and other electronic forms of communication.

It’s a common item in the local sheriff and police blotter. Hardly a day goes by without someone calling the law enforcement center to report that an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or an estranged spouse or a relative is sending threatening or hate-filled messages.

Here’s just a sample:

A woman reported that an ex-boyfriend has been harassing her and her child via text and phone. The woman received more than 100 text messages from him.

A woman reported that a male party was posting lies about her fiance on Facebook.

A man reported receiving multiple rude texts from his child’s mother relating to a child custody issue. The texts insinuated that accidents could happen to him.

A woman reported that her son has been getting death threats via Facebook.

An ex-boyfriend texted a woman, “Why don’t you tell police that I am here to visit.” The woman didn’t want any contact with him.

In most of these incidents, law enforcement advises the victims to obtain a harassment restraining order or an order for protection against those who are sending the harassing messages, if they don’t have one already. Another good piece of advice for victims: Don’t respond back to the threats. That usually only makes the situation worse, according to security experts.

There are also local resources available to those who are constantly being threatened or harassed, no matter what type of communication is being used. They can contact Someplace Safe through a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-974-3359.

You may qualify for a harassment restraining order if the other party has engaged in repeated unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to have an adverse effect on the safety, security or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship, according to Someplace Safe.

Communicating one’s feelings is easier than ever these days via cell phones, laptops and other on-the-go devices. Unfortunately, many people let anger, jealousy and rage override their other emotions, prompting them to shoot off a fiery threat or insult in just a few seconds. If you find yourself doing this, stop, count to 100, step away from the computer or put down the phone. Wait until the rage subsides and you can think more clearly. If you need help with this, seek it. Enroll in an anger management class, talk to a trusted friend or co-worker, get counseling. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers help for those who think they’re mistreating their partner. Call 1-800-799-SAFE.