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Self-Care If You’ve Been Harassed

Self-Care If You’ve Been Harassed

Self-Care If You’ve Been Harassed is part of a larger resource for members of the writing community on personal and event safety concerns, both in-person and online. To see all the resources available, visit our Safety homepage. This section provides suggestions and resources for those dealing with the negative mental health repercussions of targeted harassment. We each have our own needs and methods when it comes to mental health and self-care. You may already have strategies in place, or this may be the first time you find yourself looking for some. Either way, the considerations offered in this document are merely a starting point, and you are strongly encouraged to pick and choose as you see fit from among them.

How Do I Know if I’ve Been Harassed?

If you have to ask the question, then chances are you have been harassed. You may encounter pressure from others, and perhaps even from yourself, to minimize or downplay the event. Trust your feelings. While it may be challenging to do so, recognizing the emotions that naturally emerge from an upsetting experience, be they fear, anger, or something else entirely, is the first step toward self-care.

Did I Do Something Wrong?

No. Harassment is never the victim’s fault, no matter the circumstances. Additionally, the victim is under no obligation to “resolve” the situation, or “make nice” with the harasser.

Should I Do Something?

That depends entirely on you. There is nothing wrong with deciding to put off dealing with an emotionally upsetting episode until you are able to do so in a healthy and productive manner. In fact, it may be better to hold off for the time being rather than to lash out and escalate the situation. But if you find that the incident troubles you, either emotionally or physically, you may wish to come up with some strategies to help you cope with, process, and ultimately address the trauma.

Sharing your experience with someone you know

Many people find benefit in sharing their experience with a friend or family member. People who have experienced harassment often feel isolated by the event, and simply reaching out to someone you know and trust can alleviate the feelings of loneliness that may arise. It can be a great comfort to know that you are not alone.

Recording the experience

Especially in the case of repeated harassment, it can be extremely beneficial to record your experiences. First, it may provide some emotional support to have concrete evidence that cannot be easily dismissed. Second, should the harassment escalate to the point where you need to take legal action, such records could prove invaluable.

If it is an in-person incident, note down the date, approximate time, what was said and/or done, and if there were any witnesses. If the incident took place online, taking a screenshot is a quick and efficient means of recording it. MacOS, Windows, Linux, ChromeOS, Android, and iOS all have built-in screenshot capabilities.

If recounting or recording the incident yourself is too upsetting, you can also ask a trusted friend or family member to do it for you.

Sharing your experience publicly

Some people find benefit in sharing their experience publicly through a social media platform such as Twitter or Facebook. You may find tremendous support this way, but it may also result in backlash and further harassment. It is a good idea to weigh the risks and benefits for yourself before embarking on such an approach.

Confronting your harasser

Like sharing your experience publicly, confronting your harasser comes with benefits and risks. You may find it deeply empowering and cathartic. But some harassers are looking for attention, even negative attention, and may mistake any response you give as encouragement to continue their behavior.

Protecting yourself

It is always a good idea to practice safe habits, but if you are the target of harassment, it is more important than ever in order to protect both your mental and physical health.

  • Disable all location tracking for your social media apps.
  • Block or report any harassment you experience on social media platforms. Nearly all offer a way to do so within the application itself. Doing this will (hopefully) shield you from further harassment, and might also help others who are experiencing similar harassment from the same individual.
  • Look carefully through your social media accounts to make sure information such as email address, phone number, and mailing address are not shared publicly.
  • Never reuse passwords. Use a password naming convention so that each password is different, utilize the built-in Apple Keychain or Windows Credential Manager to keep track of them, or consider a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password that can generate unique random passwords and store them in an encrypted database.
  • If you plan to attend a convention, find out what their policy is on dealing with harassment. Many conventions also offer onsite support during the event. If they do not, and you still wish to attend the convention, consider planning to do so in the company of a trusted friend or colleague.

Seeking Professional Help

If you need additional support, there are a number of systems available, from local support groups, to large organizations with national or international outreach programs. Many health care providers offer mental health services, and the increasing availability of online therapy may allow you to search more widely for a mental health professional who best fits your needs, such as a therapist who specializes in women or LGTBQ+ issues. Finding the right person can make all the difference, so don’t be afraid to ask questions during the initial visit to assess whether they are right for you.

If the situation is urgent, the American Psychological Association provides a comprehensive and up to date list of hotlines and resources organized by topic.