We have often heard of harassment at work and bullying in schools. However, did you know that neighborly harassment can also occur? Suppose that one of our neighbours makes life hard for us, and coerces us in order to get what he/she wants, as well as insulting and threatening us? What must we do? Even though it is hard to believe that this can happen, unfortunately, more and more situations of neighborly harassment are reported. There are people who find it difficult to live in harmony with their neighbours, and on top of this, they are unable to engage in a peaceful dialogue. As a result, when this unpleasant person gets obsessed with a neighbour it can lead to a nightmare for everybody. This kind of person does not need an extraordinary circumstance to spark off his/her irritability. Sometimes, there have been reports concerning situations described by the harasser which turned out to be false. The supposed cases of noises made by music or television in high volume, pets that disturb his/her rest… any excuse can be made so as to carry out neighborly harassment. What can we do if this situation arises?
WE MUST DIFFERENCIATE EACH PROBLEM
First of all, it is convenient to differentiate each problem. It is one thing to have a disagreement or an argument with a neighbour, a fact which often happens in a community, but it would be quite another matter if we are harassed. How do we distinguish if we are being harassed? We are harassed if the problem with our neighbour leads to having health disorders such as not being able to get to sleep, having stress or even getting unjustifiably disheartened which is a sensation that can cause irritability or anxiety. What could happen is that the neighbour who suffers from harassment may feel threatened and terrified and therefore avoid going to the common areas so as not to coincide with the harasser. We must point out that many Spanish psychologists are seeing an increasing number of patients who seek advice regarding neighborly harassment. Actually, this kind of harassment is like any other but as it occurs in our place of residence, it may make us leave and force us to move home. It is important to bear in mind that many harassers exaggerate the complaints made to the president of the resident´s association or to other neighbours, and therefore, take on the role of victims so as to isolate their prey.
SHOULD WE DECIDE TO REPORT THE MATTER, WE MUST SEEK SUPPORT
The law states that neighborly harassment is covered by the Criminal Code. If this harassment is proved, then the harasser might end up in prison. The only problem is that it is often very difficult to prove before a court that harassment is taking place. In Spain, formal reports are very seldom issued. Furthermore, this offence was only recently included, in 2015, in our Criminal Code. However, if we decide to go to the courts, it is indispensable to have the support of some of the neighbours who are willing to give evidence of the harassment. The more testimomies there are, the more facts the court will have to consider the offence as real and genuine.