“I’m gonna beat you up!”. You might have been at the receiving end of this threat plenty of times, but never really bothered to take action because you know that it’s nothing but an empty threat. A figure of speech used as a joke by your longtime friend.
But then there are threats that warrant serious attention. And putting an end to such will depend on how you handle it.
Taking steps to completely stop a threat is not easy, but it’s very doable. Just remember I AM – an acronym for Identify, Assess, Manage.
1. Identify The Threat
Whether the threat is directed to you or not, it’s important to identify if the threat is indeed real. And when doing so, context matters.
When did the person say it? How was it said? Does the aggressor have the ability to follow through? Does the aggressor have a history of doing such an act? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when identifying a threat.
Let’s take the case of a Texas teenager who made a Facebook comment. He said that he’s “going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still-beating hearts.” That comment got him arrested. Why? Context.
The threat was taken seriously by the local law enforcers since this happened two months after the horrendous Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. The teen also lives near an elementary school.
Even if the teenager’s not capable of the act, saying such things during a sensitive period is unwarranted.
2. Assess The Threat
Once you know that the online threat is credible, the next step is assess it according to the American Psychological Association. Here’s how to do it:
Gather enough evidence
Chronicle the events that lead to the threat. During the chaos, the crossfire of messages may confuse you. The best thing to do is to jot down everything that happened as soon as possible. This way, you won’t miss any details that might be very helpful to your case later on.
Save the hostile emails or take a screenshot of the alarming comments the aggressor made.
A man in Oklahoma was arrested because of this. He made death threats directed at his co-workers as well as to the local enforcers using social media and emails.
Even if you know the aggressor, it’s still best to ask other people who are well acquainted with the aggressor, too. You may find something new that will implicate him or her further.
There might be other people who have been threatened by the same person, and they’re just scared to come out. Plenty of people who have been threatened refuse to do something about it for fear of getting into further trouble. You can help them.
If there’s solid proof against your aggressor, you and the other victims can all find ways to look for a good outcome together.
3. Manage The Threat
De-escalate the situation
It’s very tempting to reply with hurtful words when you’re being demeaned. But when there’s already too much tension, the best thing to do is to de-escalate the situation.
Do not threaten the aggressor back. This will only put you in a bad situation.
Use the advantages of online conversation instead of taking some time to craft your words.
Take a deep breath, put down your phone, shut down your laptop for a while, or get out of the house if you have to. Just don’t respond when you’re mad.
Tell a family member, a friend, or a trusted colleague
Some people delay this until the problem has become too big.
People usually can’t think of the best solution when faced with a problem such as this. There are too many emotions involved, and those emotions will forbid you from thinking clearly.
You need someone who has a different perspective to guide you through. Dissent is not a bad thing. In some cases, it can benefit you.
Tell the proper authorities
The U.S. Secret Service created a Threat Assessment Model aimed at preventing future school shootings. According to them, “threat should immediately be reported to local law enforcement authorities.”
Local enforcement authorities are trained to effectively handle situations like this. They exactly know what to look for and how to put an end to it.
Not only that. They can determine if the aggressor has any underlying problems. The aggressor may be depressed or have psychological issues that need further assessment. Law enforcers can provide him or her with professional help.
So you’re not just helping yourself; you’re also helping someone else get better.
Cliche as it may sound: it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Take calculated and logical steps when looking for a solution. And always seek the experts’ help as soon as possible.