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What are the Different Types of Harassment?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are a number of different types of activities that are called harassment, and most forms are defined in such a way that victims can seek help from various institutions to avoid harassers. The unifying features of harassing behaviors are that the offensive activity is persistent over time, causes the victim distress, and is socially recognized as inappropriate. In some cases, such as sexual harassment in the workplace, a single incident may warrant investigation, but usually the perpetrator must be warned that his or her actions are inappropriate before the behaviors can be called harassing.

Sexual harassment is one of the more commonly recognized forms of harassing behavior. This kind of harassing behavior may consist of sexual language, threats, or gestures, although when touching is involved, the activity may be called sexual assault. Unwanted attention of a romantic or sexual nature can be harassing no matter who the victim and perpetrator are, regardless of gender, status, or sexual orientation.

Creditor and police harassment are both forms of harassing behavior from people in positions of power who use their positions to distress victims unfairly, often with inappropriate language and constant contact. In the case of creditors, the money being held over the debtor's head often leads the debtor to feel helpless and refrain from seeking legal assistance. When police engage in harassing behaviors, their status as upholders of the law makes it difficult for victims to seek help.

Stalking is another common form of harassment. A stalker's actions may be innocuous when out of context, but are generally threatening when looking at the big picture. When the amount of attention the stalker gives to his or her victim becomes disturbing to the victim, even simple actions like calling on the phone can be very frightening.

Forms of harassment such as bullying are more difficult to prosecute, particularly when they involve young participants. While bullying is a harassing activity, it is generally seen as socially acceptable among young people, and victims are seen as being weak. The intent of bullying is to cause the victim distress through psychological measures or even physical violence, and so it is clear that bullying meets the definition of harassing behaviors for adults. Children are often given a pass on this behavior because they are not seen as capable of causing permanent damage to one another.

In addition to these common forms, a person can usually make a case that other types of actions may be considered harassing. For instance, if a person knows that his or her victim is terrified of dogs and continues to post images of dogs around the victim after being told to stop, some people would consider this harassment because of its intent. If a person feels that he or she is being victimized, it is worth evaluating even unconventional behavior for signs of harassment and seeking appropriate measures to stop the activity.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon993419 — On Nov 13, 2015

I've raised, trained, and showed AKC dogs for over 30 years. I would say that in that time I have had hundreds of happy families and I have continued to keep in contact with most, and I have had some unhappy customers that I can count on both my hands where there was nothing I could do or say in working with them that was going to be good enough.

Each breed has their breed specific communities, and within those communities cliques, and each of the cliques has their own stance on what other owners/breeders in the community should or shouldn't be doing, and great discussions are had between them. Then there are the cliques full of the breed bullies who seek out targets, which are usually the newbies that don't survive the attacks of threats, and harassment and are being bullied out of the breed. The other targets in their words, "you are either with us, or against us".

I have been under attack for five years from this group. It would go in cycles from extreme to nothing for short periods, where they would make up stories accusing me of things that are not true, or taking something I said and twisting it to fit their agenda to harass, meanwhile posting these things all over the community, and building members who would jump on the bandwagon without knowing me, or asking questions to find their own facts.

Back in January, this group went after a newbie into the breed because she got her breeding pair from me, and she also had another dog that had come from one of the members in their clique. They relentlessly went after this new person, and she ended up finding homes for her dogs, and got out of the breed, but the attacks on me from that point were relentless. They created stories that I kill dogs simply because I didn't prefer their color, or they were useless to me. Other stories were that I stole dogs to murder or sell, and that I broker dogs by sending people to buy these peoples dogs because I want their coveted lines.

Over the five years, they have built a large group with hundreds of members, and with the ringleaders who started the slander, libel, harassment, and threats incited others who were reading and believing their stories to make threats of shutting me down, stealing my dogs, making threats of taking me and my dogs out, telling me to watch my back at dog shows, and at home. People were threatening to come to my home and harm me, take my dogs, and making statements that they will be doing prison time after they get done with me, and meanwhile, these ringleaders kept the fuel going with more untrue stories. When I wrote and asked one of the ringleaders why they were doing this, the reply back was that I chose my friendship with a certain person over them (back a couple years ago I was asked to unfriend a person that they were harassing at that time, and I ignored the request).

In March, the threats became real when a person stalked my home, and later, after I left, this person singled out my two top show dogs, and stole them. This person backed a truck up to the fenced area, removed the clip from the latch, threw it on the ground, went inside the run area where they removed the clip and chain around the gate, and left them laying on the ground. This gate was left wide open, and it appears that they walked the dogs through the run, and out the first gate that they shut behind them leaving (the clip on the ground).

It is believed that in the process of trying to load the dogs in the truck that both dogs managed to get away from the dog napper(s), and ran. These two dogs were four and six years old, have never harmed a person in their life, and were my two top Grand Champion AKC show dogs who traveled everywhere. They were touched and handled by hundreds of people. A neighbor with good intentions saw them running and tried to help get a hold of them, where they did bite, and continued on until an officer came along, and managed to contain them in a neighbor's kennel, the neighbor giving permission for the dogs to stay in the kennel until the owner was found.

The officer was going off duty called the town chairperson who came and decided to shoot the dogs, where he wounded them several times before another officer came on the scene was forced to shoot so that the suffering would end.

After the word of the dogs being killed, got out these people stopped harassing me for a few months.

In August, one of the ringleaders found a puppy for sale ad I had posted in a pet facebook group, and immediately started posting under it with the stories that they manufactured, and warning people that I was a puppymill, dog killer, dog stealer, and dog broker.

After years of trying to ignore and hoping by not giving them any fuel by responding that they would eventually quit, it was becoming evident that they are never going to stop. I did then write requesting to have communications where I would answer any questions, but only if they could remain civil. I answered the first question, but was immediately told that it didn't matter what I say to the one ringleader, and it wouldn't make a difference, followed by threats that it was their intention of running me out of business.

From there this individual created four fb groups that contain the stories they had been spreading, people joining in, and the threats starting all over again. Every day this individual makes up another story, posts private financial information, posts my address, post what she calls a puppymill fact, and has made it her mission to call my local sheriff's department a few times making different complaints, and nothing was found to be true.

When that didn't work she called USDA to inspect, but I do not fall into their guidelines for carrying a license through them, and was found to be in the right. After that she called AG Department to have me inspected, they did, and I was found to be in good standing. When that didn't work, she began gathering names of puppy owners that I have on my fb page, and began calling them and telling them I am a puppymill who kills my dogs, I steal dogs trying to sell them, and when I can't sell them I kill them, and I am a dog broker, and then would ask them if they had any stories to give her about me, and would then threaten them if they withheld anything that they would be subpoenaed. She was also telling them that she was going to have me closed down, and the dogs that they got from me were going to be taken away from them and euthanized. This person has gotten others in my area believing her stories and are putting up posters in my area offering a reward for information against me.

There is so much more to mention on the threats of continuing doing this until I am dead, to contacting our banker with their stories and adding that I am running from the law etc.

I have made police reports, I have tried submitting a complaint to CSI. I have been actively looking for an attorney who will take my case, and have found several, but I can't afford $10,000 to $20,000 retainer fee. The police have contacted this person and she was told to stop, but didn't blink and eye at it, and just keeps on.

I did finally find one attorney that comes with good reviews, and only needs $4,000 to begin legal action, however, with all the slander, defamation, and seeming to know who is interested in one of my dogs for sale (contacting them and getting them to back out), they have done great harm to my reputation and business of 30 years.

I have been so depressed, and full of anxiety that it is difficult to get through each and every day, surviving another day.

I don't know where else to go, or what else I can do to stop this continuous bullying.

By anon992286 — On Aug 27, 2015

I was friends with this girl who one day was going to press charges on me for harassment because she was upset at someone else. But she can't press any charges because I wasn't threatening her or using inappropriate languages or stalking her. The woman was clearly crazy.

By anon952634 — On May 22, 2014

I had this friend from a foreign country. One day, he decided to take me to his home and we were talking, and then he forced me to have intercourse with him that day. I was so scared after that. We had an affair. He is married and so am I. He used me all the time just for sex and would leave me bruised and blue and say he did it because he loved me.

I got pregnant and he took me to the doctor and forced me to get an abortion. I am a total wreck. I am emotionally abused. He has lots of money and buys everyone off. He thinks he can get away with what he has done to me, and I'm sure he is doing the same thing to someone else. What can I do? Please help.

By anon946344 — On Apr 18, 2014

I am 16 and there are two managers that I feel are harassing me. I don't know what to do because I don't know if harassment or not. One of the managers yells at me in front of customers and gets customers to tell me I'm doing something wrong and embarrasses me. The other manager isn't too bad, but the power went out and I asked what happened and she was being really rude to me and said, "Does it look like I know?" and started to laugh with another co worker, and she said to her that she wanted to hang me by my toes because I was fooling around with another co-worker. I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to get my parents involved.

By anon939296 — On Mar 13, 2014

My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for two years now and in these two years, her father has phoned my work to complain to my employer regarding my sexual status. He has shown up at my office threatening me that I should watch my back. He sent me text messages saying what a home wrecker I am and that I'm a slut and a whore.

These messages have stopped, but my girlfriend's father still texts her saying she should get AIDS tests done because all guys have HIV. I am a blood donor and really don't need to do any tests. Can it still be called harassment even if I don't directly get these messages but my girlfriend does? What can I do to make him stop? Two years of taking his crap is too much.

By anon356619 — On Nov 26, 2013

Is this considered harassment or not? Yesterday, my mom pulled my hair really hard; it almost came out and it was a big chunk, then she pushed me against the wall and made me get on the ground on my hands and knees, and then she squeezed the back of my neck so hard I could barely breathe. Then to make things worse she yelled horrible things at me and left me there on the edge of the wall for an hour. I'm 13.

By anon342259 — On Jul 18, 2013

I had a Facebook account, and I just recently deactivated it because my sisters were attacking me with comments and words. I made a last entry and deactivated it, but the remarks continued. Is that considered harassment?

By amypollick — On May 21, 2013

@anon335544: Let her post whatever she wants about you. It doesn't make any difference. Your friends know better and don't care. Don't respond to her *at all* online, but also, don't post where you're going so she could possibly see it. PM your friends, if you need to tell them something on Facebook.

Having said that, the next time she shows up where you are, if she and her buddies are really trying to freak you out, here's what you do: paste a *huge* smile on your face, walk up to her and say, "Oh, Jane! How *are* you? It's been *so* long since we've seen each other! OMG! I can't believe I ran into you here! Isn't that just awesome? And you have all your friends here! It's *so nice* to see them, too! You have to come to the coffee shop with us! We have *so* much catching up to do!"

Say it *loud,* too, so that everyone is looking at you. I guarantee she and her cronies will beat feet out of there in a heartbeat. The best part is, if you see her anywhere else, she will probably avoid you like the plague.

It also never hurts to drop hints about how much better you are since you're on your new medication. If she posts everywhere that you're crazy, so much the better. Sit back and enjoy watching her new paranoia. Good luck.

By anon335544 — On May 21, 2013

I have a quick question: If you ask someone to leave you alone (like texting, calling, in general) and they still come at you by posting things about you on facebook and showing up where you are with a group of friends (this has happened more than once) is this considered harassment or stalking?

Long story short: It was a stupid fight with someone I used to hang out with and I thought, O.K. It was a fight -- no big deal -- and it has turned into this crazy thing. This person is

talking about me online and now when I go some places, there she is with her friends and they make a point of making me uncomfortable so much so that my other friends have now taken notice.

By anon331762 — On Apr 24, 2013

My 12 year old daughter was approached by an adult parent who got in her face and started yelling at her. My daughter did not talk back to the parent.

My daughter felt afraid and she thought the mom was going to hurt her since the mom was so close to her. all this happened at a school event.

The parent constantly writes negative things about my daughter on Facebook, but the school told me they cannot help my daughter because the bullying and harassment is made by a parent. Has anyone ever experienced this? I would like to know how I can keep my daughter safe while she is in the care of the school.

By anon313393 — On Jan 11, 2013

My supervisor is constantly getting on to me about talking or being on my phone. Mind you, I work in an office and I do not see any patients, and if I am on my phone, it's to reply to necessary messages. Never do I text back and forth having conversation. I work in an office with another person, and all of my work is done on the computer.

I have seen her see someone else on their phone and she never says anything. There have been people talking back to her and she says nothing. I give no problems and she always has something to say to me. I have an evaluation coming up with my supervisor and administrator, but I'm not sure how to deal with the situation.

By anon304967 — On Nov 23, 2012

I have an ex staff person who has been harassing me for four years. it began on the job while I was her supervisor.She slandered me, filed false reports on me. My employer refused to back me up which left me in a very bad position. She eventually was fired over other issues.

Since then, she has relentlessly slandered and harassed me, to the point of somehow knowing employers I'm interviewing with and contacting them, saying horrible things about me both personally and professionally. It has cost me several job opportunities.

What can I do to stop her? I can't give up the employer who disclosed the info to me and I've heard these cases are difficult to prove.

By anon294080 — On Sep 29, 2012

When I was 22, I had an affair with an older man that lasted a couple of months. Since then, this man has found out where my grandma lived and sent her packages for me, found out who the rest of my family was and started to contact them on Facebook, them trying to find out where I am.

I'm 29 now and have happily been with my common-law husband for over five years, and have a son with him, as well.

I'm still being harassed by the other man and he's also harassing my man now, sending him messages which have now caused me and my common law husband to split because he can't handle this anymore. Now I have found the stalker has moved to the same town where I'm alone with my son.

What should I do because I don't want him contacting anyone in my life anymore. I'm still paying for a dumb young mistake I made way back when.

By anon293448 — On Sep 25, 2012

I have a neighbor who has gone after my eight year old son. We have only just bought the house we live in and have lived here for four months. For the past month, this neighbor has gone from one neighbor to the next and spread lies about my son. She has lived in the neighborhood for eight years, so knows everyone. I had to talk to my son's principal because our neighbor's child goes to the same school as my son and started spreading rumors there about him the next day.

I called the police to ask them to talk to her, because our neighbor was outside on the street telling another neighbor that my child touches and kills animals (untrue) in front of my son. I asked her to stop because she is hurting my son and he is only eight years old, and she told me she can say and do what she wants because she had lived here for eight years and all the neighbors are her friends.

She has managed to alienate my son from the neighborhood kids and told the police a lie, saying my son is sleepwalking every morning at 4 a.m. (the police did not believe her) and told us to try stay away from her and not talk to her. She called my son by name on her Facebook page and said she wants to slap the bleep (me) as well as called us bleeping psycho neighbors, so I reported it as abuse to the Facebook people and asked them to remove it, which they did.

We ignored her and did nothing for two weeks, then she phoned my husband's commander and told him more lies, saying that my husband was walked toward her in a threatening manner (never happened). My husband spoke to his commander and showed him all that's happened and his commander then phoned her and told in a nice way, I'm sure, to leave us alone.

I'm afraid that now she has not gotten her way that my son and I might be in danger from this neighbor and her husband. Can I not get something like a restraining order against her, if not for me, then at least for my son? I keep him indoors most of the time. I'm outside with him when he is out because he is afraid of the neighbors. He won't stand by the bus stop for school by himself because they are there. He is afraid if he talks to other kids, she will shout at him.

My husband gos away for the weekend for work and our neighbors are having a party the same weekend and my husband wont' let my son and me stay in our own home alone because of fear of what the neighbors might do. I need my happy, carefree little boy back and the neighbor stopped. Please help!

By amypollick — On Jul 31, 2012

@anon282702: In the situation I posted about, the original question concerned a vicious ex-husband who was threatening to go to the church elders to get personal information.

In this particular case, a pastor provides the first line of defense, so to speak. He or she can also go to the church elders on the person's behalf and make sure the ex does not have an audience for his tales. This is a crucial role. So in this case, the pastor's willingness to protect his or her congregant is critical.

As for your daughter, no, unless the neighbor actually does something, there's nothing you can do, except be proactive. Make sure either you or her boyfriend walk her home at night, or go pick up her in the car. Tell her to ignore the neighbor completely.

Chances are, this guy is just a dirty old man who won't try to do anything to her. If he makes any kind of lewd or suggestive gesture or says anything suggestive, then you go over there and tell him to walk himself right back into his house and to pretend your daughter doesn't exist, or the police will be paying him a visit.

By anon282702 — On Jul 31, 2012

Really? What is a pastor going to do? My daughter goes to her boyfriend's house on a daily basis and the neighbor across the street stands on his sidewalk and stares when she comes out. He even told her good night honey in a creepy tone. My daughter is only 17. Unless he confronts her there's nothing I can do. Can someone give me some insight since she is only 17?

By amypollick — On May 02, 2012

@anon265631: First, call your pastor and tell him or her what's going on. He or she can then talk to the elders of your church and tell them to hang up on your ex if he does call. Then, when your ex threatens to go to your church elders, laugh at him. Besides: what could they tell him, anyway?

You have to miss more than one payment on a loan before the bank forecloses on the house, and it's the bank's decision, not his. *He* can't take back the house without a court order, as far as I know, especially if your name is on the loan, too. You probably need to talk to an attorney about that, though.

As for the calls and texts, change your number. Go to your service provider and explain the problem and ask to change your number. I know it's a headache, but if he doesn't have your number, it buys you some peace of mind. And only give the new number to your employer, your husband and your mom, or a close family member.

When you talk to that attorney about your house loan, also ask if a no-contact order on your ex is possible. He or she can advise you about your options there, too. Good luck in getting this creep out of your life.

By anon265631 — On May 02, 2012

My ex husband is texting and emailing me with harassing messages. He is mad because I refuse to bow down to his demands. He is also threatening me with messages stating that if I miss a payment on the loan, he will take my house and I would have to pay it back totally.

There is also a problem with him. He is threatening to go to my church elders and find out what is going on in my life.

This is very stressful to me and my present husband. My present husband's heart is deteriorating and he cannot afford to have any additional stress in his life. This is not good for him.

What is my recourse? Thank you.

By anon252871 — On Mar 07, 2012

Is it harassment when a landlord claims you damaged their property when you did not? The Tenancy Dispute Authority ruled in my favor but it caused me stress, cost me time and money to fight it and having had cancer several times, I can't cope with the stress which was so unnecessary. It took nearly three months for me to get my $1600 bond back. Any thoughts? I want to claim personal harassment.

By anon180066 — On May 25, 2011

I am a female worker who has been bullied by her boss for 21/2 years. Unionized environment-union wants to fight to keep my job, but i don't have no zest to fight. How do I approach HR for a settlement?

By anon165022 — On Apr 03, 2011

I work at a place where I am being constantly accused of things I did not do by one of my employees. She speaks little english and tells everyone I am mean to her and yell at her and throw things etc.

I have done none of these things. She yells at me when I ask her to do certain duties which are in her job description. It has gone as far as her claiming hostile work environment and is slandering me. The thing is I am still employed there and she decided to quit. I am tired of having to defend myself against these false accusations. In my eyes she is doing these things to try to get me fired.

I have worked there three years and have never had one complaint against me until she was hired. Would a Cease and Desist order be appropriate in this issue? I feel harassed by her.

By anon122080 — On Oct 26, 2010

If a family member tells someone you are crazy, stalker, whore and leads someone to believe this and they make you lose your job through humiliation. Then you lose your home due to not having a job. What should you do? When you have never had certified crazy papers or have ever been convicted of stalking any person. All hearsay. What should you do?

By love0876 — On Sep 25, 2010

italy12- I have not been a victim of harassment myself, but I witness it happening in my own workplace on a regular basis and I don't think that enough is being done to stop it.

My first advice would be to really confront your male co-worker. Firmly let him know that you are not joking and that you do not enjoy his comments. Let him know that you are serious and that you will file a complaint against him if the behavior persists.

If he does not get the point, I would get human resources involved. It is a big liability on the company to have harassment going in the workplace. If you file a complaint against him, they will have no choice but to take action against him.

By italy12 — On Sep 25, 2010

I am a female and I am being harassed by a male co-worker. The harassment is not overt or violent, but he always makes sexual comments to me that make me feel uncomfortable. I have told him to stop, but he just thinks I'm being flirtatious and he keeps doing it.

Has anyone else been in this situation? Any tips on what I should do?

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