What is the legal definition of harassment?
The law defines “harassment” as a series of willful acts over a period of time that:
- seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or harms you without “serving a legitimate purpose”; and
- reasonably causes you to suffer substantial emotional distress (harm); or
- reasonably causes you to fear for the well-being of your child.
Note: This “course of conduct” does not include constitutionally protected activity or constitutionally protected speech.1
As explained above, for the acts to be harassment, they cannot be considered to “serve a legitimate purpose.” To decide if the actions are for a legitimate (valid) purpose, the court will consider whether:
- the abuser started the current contact between you two or whether you both contacted each other;
- the abuser has been given clear notice that all future contact with you is unwanted;
- the acts appear designed to alarm, annoy, or harass you;
- the abuser is acting to try to protect a legal interest in his/her property, to enforce a law, or to meet a legal obligation;
- the abuser’s acts unreasonably interfere with the your privacy or create an intimidating, hostile (unfriendly), or offensive living environment for you;
- there was a court order in the past that limited the abuser’s contact with you or your family.2
1 R.C.W. § 10.14.020
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.030