There's an old saying that it's better to be alone than in bad company, and anyone who has been harassed, stalked or bombarded by unwanted communications is likely to agree with that sentiment. The type of harassing conduct can occur in any of a number of situations, running the gamut from some guy who you don't like being interested in you, to a vindictive ex-spouse, to a collection company trying to recover an unpaid debt. Obviously, you won't be able to use one technique in all of these situations. You'll need to tailor your response to the situation.
Just Say No
If someone likes you and wants to take you out, you obviously don't have to go. You can refuse any type of social contact for any reason. But sometimes it's hard to be assertive, and the other person keeps pestering you until it feels out of control. You just want the person to leave you alone and quit pressuring you to go out, but you haven't managed to do so yet.
Your first step is to take a good, hard look at the situation. Ask yourself the harder questions and run them by your friends, too. Is this person just persistent or does it feel like you are in danger? Has he ever grabbed you, pushed you or threatened you? Has he tried to physically intimidate you or followed you home when he wasn't invited or wanted?
If he hasn't, it's time to tell him frankly and directly that you are not interested in seeing him again. It's easy to try to be nice and avoid offending someone in refusing them, but at some point, you just have to say "No, I don't want to go out with you now or ever. Stop harassing me." It may help if you take a friend along with you for moral support, but the important part is to insist that you be left alone. It may be a good idea to call the police if the behavior continues.
Order of Protection
If you do feel in danger because of the actions of someone, whether she is following you, harassing you or threatening you, take stronger action to protect yourself. You have no viable options that are as effective as getting a restraining order, called a protection order or order of protection in some states. The very purpose of this type of an order is to keep someone like this away from you.
You may think of a restraining order as something that should be reserved for cases of extreme violence, in which someone is beaten or threatened with a gun. But it isn't. The idea of a protection order is to protect you so that worse things don't happen to you. While people who have been beaten or raped can and do get protective orders, you can also get one for any behavior that would make a reasonable person afraid.
Some types of protective orders are available only in cases of domestic violence. That is, you can get a domestic violence protective order only against someone in a close relationship with you, like a spouse, an ex-spouse, someone you are living with or have had a child with, or someone in your family. If that is your situation, you can apply for a domestic violence protective order at your local court or magistrate's office. Usually, these are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If the court is closed when you need this type of an order, call the police to find out where you should go to get an after-hours order. This varies among jurisdictions. All you need to do is fill out the petition or application, giving your name and the name of the person you are afraid of, then list the conduct that has made you afraid. The court can grant an emergency order without a hearing, but will schedule a full hearing quickly where both you and the other person can appear and testify.
If your relationship with the other person doesn't qualify you for a domestic violence protective order, most states also offer other protective orders for dating or stalking situations. You usually apply for these in the same manner and the same place as domestic violence orders. And the great thing about filing for a restraining order is that if the person violates it and approaches you, you can call the police and have him arrested for violating the order.
Cease and Desist Letter
Cease and Desist Letters are another possible way of getting someone to stop bothering or harassing you about bills or business matters. You usually use a Cease and Desist Letter to get someone to stop doing something illegal. The activity may be illegal debt harassment, use of your copyrighted or trademarked work or violations of a contract. This type of letter spells out the offensive activity, explains how it is illegal, and tells the person to stop within a certain time frame. It also lets her know that you are ready to take legal action against her if she does not stop.
By its very nature, a Cease and Desist Letter works well in a business context. A debt collection company operates under state law restrictions. If it breaks the law, your letter lets the company know that you are aware of the law and its having broken it. This kind of company is well aware that a court is not going to approve of its actions and, once you make it clear that you are ready to go to court, it is quite likely to stop. If you give the company a 10 to 15-day period to think about it, it is likely to decide it isn't worth it. The same is true of the use of trademarked material or contract violations. The Cease and Desist letter nudges the individual or company to do the right thing and makes it clear that you are fully aware of and intend to protect your rights.
Some people suggest using a Cease and Desist letter for harassment. However, when harassment is not by a company (trying to collect a debt) but rather by a vindictive former spouse, weird stranger stalker or violent boyfriend, you are less likely to get the response you want. The idea is for someone to read the letter, consider his behavior, compare it with the law on the subject, and come to a logical conclusion that he had better stop the behavior. It's possible that some abusers would react in this way, but many wouldn't.
If you feel you are in danger, or that your kids are in danger, a Cease and Desist letter is probably not going to help you feel safe. The waiting period built into a Cease and Desist letter is another barrier. Many people who request restraining orders are in immediate fear of bodily harm and need an immediate temporary restraining order put in place to keep them safe that very night.
If you are in doubt about whether your situation would qualify for a restraining order, call a domestic abuse agency or a women's help organization for advice. Even the police in many areas will have information that would be useful to you.
Read More: The Proper Way to Serve a Cease & Desist Letter
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.