Textual harassment can take an emotional toll on victims

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by Katherine Whaley / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on August 2, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 2 at 8:48 PM

HOUSTON – It’s annoying, embarrassing and illegal – and it could happen to anyone.

Textual harassment is when a person receives unwanted texts of a sexual nature.

One Houston woman knows all too well the emotional toll textual harassment can take on the victim.

She said she gave her number to someone she thought would become a friend.

"I was like, I didn’t know how to make this stop," the victim, Sophia, said. "It makes me feel like I am something I’m not."

Sophia said the man started sending her inappropriate texts at all hours of the day and night.

"Every single day, and twice a day," she said.

Sophia said he also sent her graphic photos of his private parts – all from a man she met only once.

"I would be like, ‘I don’t want this. Please stop. Please stop, please stop. I’m calling an attorney,’" Sophia said.

She made good on that threat, but it turned out she needed more than just legal help.

Sophia started seeing a counselor, Angelina Rodriguez, to help her deal with the harassment.

Rodriguez said textual harassment can be more violating that one might think.

"It’s non-consensual, and it’s considered harassment. And that can affect one by going into depression or creating anxiety," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said anyone who may be a victim of textual harassment should first tell the sender to stop texting them. Then, contact the cell-phone carrier, call police and get advice from a counselor.

"If those kinds of things happen, go talk to someone about it. See if it’s affecting your everyday life," Rodriguez said.

Sophia said the counseling helped her a lot.

"It helped because at first I felt like I brought it on myself. Apparently, a lot more women have to deal with it," she said.

HPD said they don’t specifically track textual harassment, but victims can always file a report.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said prosecutors treat textual harassment just like telephone harassment, which is a Class B misdemeanor and punishable up to 180 days in jail.

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