What Is Civil Harassment?

In general, civil harassment is abuse, threats of abuse, stalking, sexual assault, or serious harassment by someone you have not dated and do not have a close relationship with, like a neighbor, a roommate, or a friend (that you have never dated). It is also civil harassment if the abuse is from a family member that is not included in the list under domestic violence. So, for example, if the abuse is from an uncle or aunt, a niece or nephew, or a cousin, it is considered civil harassment and not domestic violence.

The civil harassment laws say “harassment” is:

  • Unlawful violence, like assault or battery or stalking, or
  • A credible (real) threat of violence, and
  • The violence or threats seriously scare, annoy, or harass someone and there is no valid reason for it.

“Credible threat of violence” means intentionally saying something or acting in a way that would make a reasonable person afraid for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family. A “credible threat of violence” includes following or stalking someone, making harassing calls, or sending harassing messages, by phone, mail, or e-mail, over a period of time (even if it is a short time).

Civil Harassment Restraining Orders

A civil harassment restraining order is a court order that helps protect people from violence, stalking, serious harassment, or threats of violence.

You can ask for a civil harassment restraining order if:

  • A person has abused (or threatened to abuse), sexually assaulted, stalked, or seriously harassed you, and
  • You are scared or seriously annoyed or harassed.

Generally, for civil harassment restraining orders, the person you want to restrain is not:

  • Your spouse/partner or former spouse/partner,
  • Someone you dated at any point, or
  • A close relative (parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, in-law).

If you have a close relationship like one of these, consider whether a domestic violence restraining order is best for your situation.

In a civil harassment restraining order, you can ask to restrain:

  • A neighbor,
  • A roommate,
  • A friend,
  • A family member more than 2 degrees removed, like an aunt or uncle, a niece or nephew, cousins, and more distant relatives, or
  • Other people you are not closely related to.