FAQs - What to Do When...


You Receive a Threat:

Take it Seriously...

What to do when Harassed or Threatened

1. Save the mail/e-mails/faxes/notices/message tapes. Sign them with initials and date them. Keep them in a file folder. If this is a verbal threat, immediately write a detailed memo and sign it with initials and date it.

2. For printable materials, make two copies of the ones received to date (or a representative sample if the number is overwhelming).

3. Send one set of copies to the local FBI office with a cover letter explaining you feel harassed or threatened in a way that might lead to a future civil rights violation or hate crime, and that you wish to create a record of your concerns.

4. Call the local police and explain you wish to create a written record of harassment or threat. Often, local police will discourage you, (it’s just more paperwork to them) but persist. It is generally your right to make such a record. Make an appointment with a specific officer by name to visit the police station and file a complaint stating that the harassment or threat makes you fear future acts that might evolve into criminal behavior. Append the set of copies to the complaint. Do not settle for “Just talk to the desk sergeant.” This is often a brush off. Ask for the name of the desk sergeant (or front desk person) who will be on duty when you plan to arrive, and ask for the name of the person to whom you are talking.

5. If you want printed material or other communications to stop, send a certified letter to the person or group conducting the harassment or threats and make it clear you desire no further communication from them in any form. If the communications continue, contact your service provider (postal service, phone company, internet provider), and ask for assistance. If that fails, you may have to seek legal advice.

6. Gather together the folks in the office/home/group and have an informal discussion about the fact of the communications, and how you have reacted to them. Holding the emotional weight inside is a bad idea. Anger, anxiety, fear, and a sense of not having control all are common and should not be allowed to fester.

7. If the group/individual harassing or threatening you shows up on your doorstep and attempts entry, lock the doors if still possible and call the police. Don’t hesitate. Do it immediately. Everyone in the office/home/group should be made aware that this is the policy, and they should feel empowered to act quickly and independently. Seconds count.

8. If the group/individual harassing or threatening you plans to demonstrate where you work or live, call the police and explain that while you understand they have First Amendment rights, you are concerned about possible confrontations and ask if they can provide an officer onsite or at least the name and phone number of the duty officer working that shift.

9. Go public. Write a letter to the editor. Mention it at a public meeting. People need to know about this noxious reality. Harassment and threats can be a real experience of any social movement, identity group, or rights work. Denial and silence encourages more attacks. You are not alone. Standing up together and publicly decrying such uncivil and antidemocratic attacks turns the incident into a learning experience and teaching moment.

10. For more advice, read “Common Sense Security” by Sheila O’Donnell:




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