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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Steps You Should Take If Someone Threatens You or a Loved One

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Threats of violence can have serious impacts on your mental health. Some of the issues it creates include anxiety, fear, and even self-blame. When you don’t feel safe, you may also experience physical issues like headaches, chest pains, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, and insomnia.

When someone threatens you or a loved one, the way you react can vary from becoming angry and confrontational to feeling fearful and unsure of what to do next. The truth is, the way you handle yourself when this happens can have a major impact on the rest of your life.

Here’s what you need to know.

Types of Threats

First, it’s important to understand that there are several different types of threats, and each requires a different approach. You’ll often need to quickly evaluate the situation so you can determine how serious the threat is and your best reaction.

Threats are generally categorized as credible or non-credible and immediate or non-immediate. Immediate threats may be urgent and violent while non-immediate threats are potentially just as harmful.

Immediate Threats

If you’re faced with an immediate, violent threat (like someone standing in front of you with a knife), you’ll want to quickly look around and try to find an escape route and/or potential ways to defend yourself. In this situation, getting out of harm’s way is your absolute first priority. Once you’re safe, you can determine what to do next.

Non-Immediate Threats

If the threat is more abstract, take a deep breath and figure out exactly what you’re dealing with. First, is the threat credible? This means that the threat is real, serious, and that the person has the ability to carry out the threat.

If you’re not sure, it’s always best to assume a threat is credible.

Note that a threat can be made verbally or in writing and can occur in the form of a letter, phone call, email, message, or social media post. Any kind of threat is illegal, especially if it involves physical harm.

If you have any reason to believe a threat is credible, you’ll want to report it to the police.

What to Do If Someone Threatens You: 4 Important Steps

When you’re dealing with a threat, the most important things to remember are to stay calm, take it seriously, and do not threaten back. Also be very careful of putting any type of response in writing. When things get heated it’s easy to say things you shouldn’t and the last thing you want to do is create an evidence trail that could put some of the blame on you.

Always think before you act – the things you do in this situation can have serious, long-term consequences.

Step 1: Tell Someone!

Never deal with a threat on your own. Even if you’re not ready to call the authorities yet, make sure your talk to someone about what’s going on. Show them the threatening messages and make sure they know who the person is that’s threatening you.

Not only can someone with a clear head help you figure out how to best deal with the situation, but if things escalate, you’ll have another party on your side who knows what’s going on.

If you feel comfortable, you may want to reach out to the person who is threatening you and see if you can resolve the situation. However, in many cases, this can make things worse. If you decide to take this approach, proceed with caution.

Never, ever meet with the person alone! If possible, have your confidant stay with you while you make the phone call so he or she can act as a witness if things go south.

Step 2: Retain All Evidence

From the moment the threat occurs, make sure to hold onto all evidence. Save messages, take screenshots, and keep a log of all contacts. This will help to document the level of threat and will be helpful if you need to pursue legal or civil action.

Step 3: Get a Restraining Order

If you’re not able to diffuse the situation or you legitimately feel afraid for your safety, the next step is to get a restraining order. You’ll do this by going to your local police department and providing evidence to prove that you’ve been threatened.

You can either get an order that prevents the person from engaging in specific actions or one that requires the person to stay within a certain distance from you (usually 50 – 100 yards).

It’s important to remember that if someone is intent on hurting you, a piece of paper is not going to stop them. Don’t let this create a false sense of confidence! However, it’s the first step to creating a legal barrier and letting the person know that you’re taking the situation seriously.

Step 4: Pursue Criminal and/or Civil Remedies

Threats and harassment are both illegal, and each individual state has different laws regarding these crimes. In many cases, the aggressor may be arrested and may face assault charges. This is usually a misdemeanor, but if it’s serious, it could result in jail time.

You may also be able to bring up a civil lawsuit for emotional distress and other losses. You’ll want to meet with an attorney in your state to learn more about your options.

It’s always important to take a threat seriously and do what you need to do to protect your safety. If someone threatens you or your loved one, do your best to remain calm and follow the tips above.

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