Harassment, Bullying and Stalking
Harassment, particularly telephonic and cyber harassment, is more prevalent than most people realize. The victims of this sort of emotional terrorism are made to feel singled out and purposefully targeted.
Although it is uncommon to find one harasser engaged in the simultaneous targeting of more than one victim, it is quite common for the perpetrator of this sort of activity to include other individuals (usually closely associated with the victim) in his or her plans. These associated individuals would not be harassed with the same frequency or degree of personal attack, but they would be drawn into the harassment – either as conduits through which the harasser can reach the victim or in order to cause the victim further embarassment and difficulty.
Common Harassment Investigations
The investigation of harassment – particularly telephonic and cyber harassment – is one of our firms specialities. Intertel’s harassment investigators are unmatched in their expertise and experience and they will work closely with our forensic examiners (if evidence is available from a mobile phone, computer or online), police detectives, attorneys and prosecutors (if criminal prosecution or civil action is warranted).
Although we’re equipped to handle any matter of harassment, intimidation, bullying, stalking, extortion or victimization, we’re most often asked to investigate matters that involves one or more of the following:
Social media attacks and hacks
What must I do about harassment?
If you, a loved one, or someone that you care about is being harassed, bullied, stalked, threatened, extorted, coerced or intimidated then please have the matter reported to the police as soon as possible. Even if you don’t require or desire police investigation of the matter, it is important to have an early and official record of the situation.
If the police are unwilling or unable to open a criminal case (for whatever reason) then keep your cool, remain respectful and request that an entry be made into the Occurrence Book (SAPS 10) or if that fails, the Pocket Book (SAPS 206) of the police officer attending to you.
Be sure to obtain the Occurrence Book reference (OB Number) or the page number of the officer’s Pocket Book as well as the name and rank of the officer in question. Reassure the officer in question that this information is not going to be used against the police and that it is merely to create a paper trail in the event that this matter goes to court.
What else can I do?
If you’re in South Africa then there is some new legislation that can help you out. It is called the Protection from Harassment Act (Act 17 of 2011) which became effective on 27 April 2013. The Act makes its easier and simpler for the victims of harassment to obtain a protection order, assistance and information needed for a prosecution. A copy of the Act can be downloaded from our Publications section under Resources on the menu. Below you will find links to download the various forms that are required to exercise your rights in terms of this act. To get the ball rolling, visit your nearest Magistrate’s Court and see the Clerk of the Court. It’s as simple as that (for now).
- J37 – Form 1: Information notice to complainant or person who applies for protection order on behalf of complainant [Regulation 2]
- J59 – Form 2: Application for protection order [Regulation 3]
- J62 – Form 3 : Interim protection order [Regulation 4]
- J72 – Form 4: Notice to respondent to show cause [Regulation 5]
- J74 – Form 5: Direction to electronic communications service provider to furnish information to court [Regulation 7]
- J75 – Form 6: Affidavit by electronic communications service provider to furnish information to court [Regulation 8(3)]
- J77 – Form 7: Application by electronic communications service provider for extension of period within which information must be provided to court or cancellation of direction [Regulation 9]
- J80 – Form 8: Request for additional evidence by way of affidavit from electronic communications service provider [Regulation 10(1)]
- J81 – Form 9: Affidavit by electronic communications service provider to furnish additional evidence to court [Regulation 10(4)]
- J89 – Form 10: Decision of court [Regulation 11]
- J92 – Form 11: Direction to a commander to investigate complaint of harassment in order to determine name and address or any other information which may be required to identify or trace respondent [Regulation 13]
- J100 – Form 12: Affidavit by member of South African Police Service to furnish information to court [Regulation 14]
- J103 – Form 13: Application by station commander for extension of period within which information must be provided to court or cancellation of direction [Regulation 15]
- J118 – Form 14: Request for additional evidence [Regulation 16(1)]
- J120 – Form 15: Affidavit by station commander to furnish additional information to court [Regulation 16(4)]
- J121 – Form 16: Decision of court [Regulation 17]
- J122 – Form 17: Affidavit by member of South African Police Service to furnish information to court [Regulation 18]
- J134 – Form 18: Subpoena [Regulation 19]
- J135 – Form 19: Final protection order [Regulation 20(1)]
- J150 – Form 20: Warrant of arrest [Regulation 22]
- J154 – Form 21: Affidavit for purposes of further warrant of arrest [Regulation 23]
- J169 – Form 22: Affidavit regarding contravention of protection order[Regulation 24]
- J186 – Form 23: Written notice to appear before court [Regulation 25]
- J240 – Form 24: Application for variation or setting aside of protection order [Regulation 26]
- J309 – Form 25: Notice of variation or setting aside of protection order [Regulation 27]
- J311 – Form 26: Statement to be completed by person who serves, files or forwards document by facsimile [Regulation 29]
What should I already be doing?
The key in any investigation is evidence, and it is vital that you keep accurate, auditable records of every event that is related to the matter. Intertel offers two free online tools to help you.
The first is a cloud-based logbook which will allow you to use your cell phone, laptop or computer to add logs of these events (the date/time and GPS coordinates are automatically recorded).
The other is a case-management notekeeping tool that enables you to make more comprehensive notes about the situation, how events have made you feel and the impact that the harassment, stalking, etc, is having on your life. This information is valuable for court proceedings.
These applications are completely private and confidential. Nobody else has access to the content you add – not even us – and all your data is hosted on two separate servers, one from each of the top two hosting companies in South Africa, for added security and redundancy. Because nobody else has access to that information, its value as a credible source of evidence is increased. If you’d prefer to host your own copy of these two apps on your own server then let us know and we’ll gladly arrange it for you.
Is there a difference between harassment, stalking and bullying?
Defining harassment, stalking or bullying is really an academic exercise. For the victim, the end results are usually indistinguishable. There certainly are many things in common between the three, and in many cases, what is being experienced is a combination of one or more of these activities, but there are also many differences between them. We do not make distinctions betweens acts of harassment, bullying, stalking, intimidation, victimization or extortion as our purpose is nearly always the same: to stop the abuse and get relief and justice for the victim.
HARASSMENT is any “persistent and unwelcome conduct which is hostile or offensive to a reasonable person and induces a fear of harm and demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile and or intimidating environment or is calculated to induce submission by actual or threatened adverse consequences” (Prof Alan Rycroft, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town). It covers a wide range of intentional behaviours that are offensive, threatening or disturbing to the victim, and can be sexual, physical, psychological, verbal or non-verbal in nature.
STALKING is defined as “any type of harassing and intimidating conduct that causes a person to fear for his or her safety” and involves “a series of discrete, individual acts, each one building upon the next” over a period of time, and can “escalate from what may initially be annoying, alarming but lawful behaviour to the level of dangerous, violent and potentially fatal acts. Stalking may therefore be a precursor to crimes such as assault, wounding, criminal intimidation, sexual offences and even murder” (South African Law Reform Commission, 2003).
BULLYING is “aggressive physical contact, words or actions to cause another person injury or discomfort” (American Psychological Association). Bullying is characterized by the repeated intimidation or abuse of the victim, either for the bully’s personal fulfillment or for the amusement of onlookers. Traditionally, bullying involved the use of force, superior strength, influence or coercion, but with the proliferation of mobile communication devices and internet use, bullying is increasingly being carried out through the use of electronic communication and information technologies.