Hate mail is a growing threat--no longer relegated to a mailbox, in today's digital age it can come by way of e-mail, text messages, or even through a Facebook or MySpace account. Often anonymous, it can contain threats; criticism; or racist or sexist language. There are no sure means to stop all hate mail, but there are ways to deal with it.
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Do not respond. Often, the best possible response is to put the hate mail out of your mind. It is difficult to let go of hateful words, but this can be the best way to get past them (see Resources below). The misstep that many people make is to respond in kind to the hate mail. This is a big mistake. Do not stoop to the writer's level. It may be easy to respond and exchange hateful e-mails, but this will only stoke that writer's interest in you. You may be hurt, but there are other, more constructive ways to deal with hate mail.
If you received this mail or e-mail from your work address, let your boss know. The employer can conduct an internal investigation; he or she will often have more resources to find out who sent the letter than you. Likewise, if you are a student, you can let your principal or teacher know. Remember to forward copies of all the hate mail you receive. Some colleges have programs in place to deal with harassment, such as Texas A&M, which has an online form for reporting such things. If it is e-mail, you can find the e-mailer's Internet Service Provider (ISP) and forward the hate mail to them (see Resources below). It is important that the ISP knows as much information as possible, including the e-mail's timestamp. They can block the abuser's account or suspend him or her for malicious use of the Internet.
Changing your contact information is often a most effective step. Of course, because that decision is often irreversible, make sure the hate communication has reached a level you can no longer tolerate. If the hate mail is appearing as cell phone texts, change your number. If an e-mail, change your e-mail address and let your closest friends and family know to update their address books. If this is a work or school address, perhaps you can switch your mailbox. If this is a home address, consider having your mail forwarded to a post office box.
Let your local law enforcement know. The authorities may not be able to complete as comprehensive a search as you would like, but they will have many more resources open to them. State laws vary as to the punishment for sending hate mail. According to a recent Supreme Court decision, Burlington Industries, Inc. vs. Ellerth (1998), your employer has a responsibility to stop harassment at work, whether he or she knows about it (see References).
Tips and warnings
- Save all correspondence. In case of an investigation, copies of the letters will come in handy.
- If you are receiving e-mail, often what can look like hate mail is in fact computer-generated spam meant to read like an actual person's writing, so be sure that it is directly targeted to you before taking further action.
- If you receive a package from the instigator, do not open it, however innocuous it may look.
- Never give out personal information to the hate mailer.
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