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What Is Hate Mail?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Hate mail is abusive mail contact, either through the postal service or an electronic mail provider. It is a form of harassment, and in some cases, the recipient might have grounds for a lawsuit. Such mail can contain threats, epithets and other abusive language that is intended to make the recipient feel unsafe or unhappy. Recipients of such mail have several mechanisms that they can use to address the issue.

This type of mail is unsolicited and unwanted. When it is sent through the postal service, it might include packages that contain unpleasant items as well as hateful letters. Email could include malicious attachments, unpleasant images or videos that are intended to frighten or upset the recipient. In some cases, a hate mail campaign might be accompanied by abusive phone calls, Internet comments and other methods of harassment, sometimes with the goal of making the target feel isolated.

If hate mail occurs in a workplace, the recipient can contact a supervisor to discuss the situation and how to proceed. Harassment from coworkers can be disciplined in a number of ways, from firing employees who behave inappropriately to reassigning them to different departments. If the supervisor is the harasser, the employee can go to another supervisor or a higher-ranking member of the company. Unionized employees might be able to get help from their labor stewards.

When the recipient of hate mail has a restraining order or other ban on contact, the mail can be turned over to law enforcement officials and could be used as grounds for a visit from the police to remind the sender about the limits on contact. Likewise, any mail that contains a credible threat also can be turned over to law enforcement officials for evaluation and investigation. The recipient might want to copy the letter and keep it on file for future reference.

A person who is the target of mail harassment might also be able to report the sender to a parent organization or group. Anyone acting or pretending to act as a representative of an employer, agency or organization can be reported for abusive behavior, including hate mail. Internet service providers might be able to take action on abusive email if it violates their terms of service. People who have safety concerns as a result of hate speech or threats in hate mail can also report them to law enforcement agencies to make sure the threats are on the record and to find out whether there are any steps that can be taken for protection.

Some recipients attempt to fight back against hate mail by publicizing it. They might reprint particularly abusive letters in newsletters and on websites to show fans and followers the kind of content found in the unwanted mail sent to them. This tactic for handling abusive mail can sometimes be effective by either shaming the senders or encouraging other people who have received hate mail to speak up about it.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Pippinwhite — On Feb 17, 2014

And sometimes, hate mail is just a matter of course. If you work in the media, hate mail is a fact of life, and one's attitude determines how much fear or anger it generates. If one is accustomed to receiving it and it's the standard offended reader calling the editor a communist, a right wing nut, an idiot, evil or whatever, one chuckles and compares the letter to those one has received that show real creativity in their composition and throw them away.

Occasionally, a letter will have a threatening tone, and in that case, you notify the police, give them the letter and allow them to handle it. Sometimes, legal action is required, but most people are all right once they've vented their anger and feel someone listened to them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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