Family dynamics are complex, particularly when there is conflict or excessive negativity. Additionally, other family members are likely to be involved. There may be a fear that those you care about will be forced to take sides or that perhaps they may alienate themselves from you. Severing ties with a harassing family member may also be complicated if you care for this person and have shared a connection in the past. Many factors can make this step necessary, however.
If you have requested your family member step back and give you space, and he has ignored your requests to stop the harassing behavior, you may have to take further, more concrete action to protect yourself. Be careful not to inadvertently send your family member any messages that you are interested in contact. Refrain from making unnecessary phone calls, initiating conversation at family gatherings and discussing the relationship with other family members that may attempt to facilitate a reconciliation. Also refrain from reciprocating the behavior. Although it is likely, and normal, to be feeling a range of unpleasant and painful emotions as a result of the harassment, engaging in this behavior yourself is not productive and will probably complicate matters further. Instead, process your feelings and sharpen your coping skills with a trustworthy person. A counselor or therapist can be beneficial if you are need of this assistance.
Issue a Warning
Your family member may be harassing you in a variety of ways. Harassment can include persistent phone calls, showing up at your home, excessive contact via social media or third parties and stalking. Describe the specific harassing behavior to your family member. You can do it verbally, but writing is preferable as it is a means of documentation, according to The Complete Lawyer, an online legal newspaper. Clearly indicate that it is unacceptable. You are not obligated to explain yourself or engage in any sort of argument.
Set Firm Boundaries
If the harassment continues beyond a verbal warning, you may decide to set more practical, concrete boundaries. This might include blocking their number on your phone, using strict privacy measures on social media, minimizing attendance at family functions, and requesting that family members refuse to discuss any knowledge about you or your life with the harassing party. These actions may be emotionally painful, and may even feel like a punishment for taking steps to protect yourself. These boundaries can protect your peace of mind, however, and may not need to be permanent.
Contact Law Enforcement
If there is a blatant disregard for your wishes or any indication that the harassment may escalate to possible physical harm, report the events to law enforcement immediately. Your harassing family member might be held accountable via criminal harassment charges, according to FindLaw, an online legal resource. You may also be eligible to obtain an order of protection, legally forbidding your family member from harassing you in any way. Violations of such orders can result in criminal charges.
Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.