Wednesday, August 6, 2014

faint but pursuing

Short-changed readers of pp will know I spent a long time dealing with a stalker. He was cited for unlawful trespass in May 2013; in criminal justice, the victim of a crime is simply a witness, and I wasn't sure what the legal implications might be of a witness writing about the whole sorry mess online. I had one Victim Advocate after another, and everything the Victim Advocate du jour led me to be believe turned out to -- have been straightforwardly true in a world where English, though indistinguishable from the language familiar to habituates of pp, has a range of vocabulary with widely different meanings from those we think we know.  In other words, I might ASK my VA whether I could write on my blog; I might very well get an answer; acting on this answer would almost certainly land me in the soup.

For better or worse, the legal machinery has run its course. I've published an abridged account of the saga in the LRB


15 comments:

Amelia P. said...

I just read this article and I am gutted. This was a harrowing experience to read about. I can't even imagine having the actual experience. I don't know why I am shocked at how this was treated by the legal system since I have no faith in it, but I am. I hope you stay safe.

Vincent Oostelbos said...

After being distracted by the sudden striking of inspiration to write (as seems to happen frequently when reading anything you've written), I read the abridged account. Once again, I'm sorry you've been through all that. I wish some things had gone/some people had acted better, meaningless though that sentiment might be.

I hope things will be at an end now, and in time, the anxiety over the whole thing and whether it may pick up again will fade. And, of course, that you will be able to get work in on that book, so as to be able to sanely avoid office jobs and the like. Best wishes.

Ted Lemon said...

This is just maddening. As a somewhat-neighbor, I wonder if there isn't some way this bad experience can be turned into a solution to the problem. Apparently there is an election coming up, with a contested primary. I wonder what Becca Balint and Jeanette White would have to say about this.

Helen DeWitt said...

Amelia, Vincent - Well, I'm baffled. But thanks!

Ted - Yes, and I gather the State's Attorney for Windham County is up for re-election. So I should probably talk to someone, but I'm a bit worn down...

Ravenmn said...

Your story is harrowing and complete unfair. I've had a similar experience and I'd like you to know that there is a chance that awesome community activists might help. I survived a truly fucked-up parent because a group of awesome women got together and exposed his lies. Society and the officials want you to think you are alone. You are not. There are activists out there to provide alternatives. Seek them out and wonder in their awesomeness.

Helen said...

I'm so glad I read your piece this morning -- I found it through Kara VanderBijl's tweet:

Kara VanderBijl ‏@karavanderbijl 1h
Pretty much the scariest, most infuriating thing I've ever read: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n16/helen-dewitt/diary …

From one Helen to another, stay strong.

Anonymous said...

I started reading your article at 4am and could not stop. I am so sorry for the awful response from authorities and what sounds like a horribly designed legal framework in general; my thoughts are with you. Be well and safe.

Shaz A.

Anonymous said...

Ms. DeWitt, I read your account with the stalker and it is horrific, and my heart goes out to you. I also live in rural Vermont and I know the authorities can fail to provide in cases like yours. I have one suggestion which may or not be helpful. I wonder if you know any neighbors or townspeople who may be prepared to speak to the stalker on your behalf, making it clear to him that his behavior will not be tolerated. There are often folks of a noble sentiment in small towns who hate when something like this takes place and will rally around someone like yourself.
If you do not have friends or family who can act in such a way, I suggest speaking to someone you might trust at your local diner, country store, garage, or gun shop. In small towns, people know each other and it might be possible that someone, or a small group, might stand up for you and speak to the stalker in a language which he will understand. I am not referring to threats of violence, but I have seen instances similar to yours resolved when the bully is confronted.
I'm so sorry you have to deal with this man. I wish you all the best.

Señor Tripp said...

How the hell you are able to write such excellent books in these circumstances, I cannot imagine. I get thrown off if my dogs are too flatulent, let alone if there's a delusional man with a gun knocking on the door.

The account in the LRB had my skin crawling.

Please take whatever precautions you have to to remain safe, including steeling yourself to the possibility of violent confrontation.

My very good friend Ellen Snortland has worked extensively in self-defense programs to help women and girls overcome their inability to act in the face of violent men. I recommend looking into what she has to say.

Best of luck, and be safe.

Señor Tripp said...

And then I remember to post the link.
http://www.snortland.com/

Anonymous said...

don't you have a (platonic) male friend that can stay with you in your cabin for a bit and put an end to this business?

Helen DeWitt said...

Anon, I have plenty of platonic male friends, but not a Trappist among them. I need to finish a book. The point of taking the place on was to be able to go somewhere where it was not necessary to talk to people.

Nick Keller said...

How about a big fucking dog? Someone needs to exorcise this fellow. I hope he has found something else to concern himself with.

Anthony in the west said...

Dear Ms.DeWitt,

I have neither had the pleasure of being one of your readers nor the honor of being one of your friends, but several hours ago I read your article in the LRB. I woke up in the middle of the night and felt such concern that I looked you up on Google, and was directed here.

By coincidence, only a few days ago I taught my daughter (18 and about to leave home) how to use a handgun. Previously I had asked her to read the book "The Gift of Fear" (1997) by Gavin de Becker. It is the bestselling personal security book of all time on Amazon. It is about using your "survival signals," aka your intuition and instincts, to identify people that are trouble, and the best ways to deal with difficult and dangerous situations such as being a woman beset by a persistent male stalker, a distressingly frequent situation for women. Your stalker displayed so many of the traits and behaviors described in the book; just about every single one!

My first thought when I read that he had broken into your house at night was simply: she could have shot him to death then and there and been within her rights, and the problem would have been over. It would be what I'd have wanted my daughter to do, or my wife, because I would rather that they take their chances with an American jury if it even ever came to having a trial, than become crime statistics. (I must add that I am not a gun-rights fanatic, don't even own one; nor a violent man.) But your intuitive behavior was also very good, the best you could have done in that situation. It could have all ended so much more badly. You were and are very brave.

In my own state, California, I think the stalking laws are much tougher than in Vermont, and I hope our victim-advocates and prosecutors are better and more sophisticated than seems to be the case in Vermont. I hope that some people with power in that state will also read your article and take action. Meanwhile, please accept my respect and best wishes for the future.

Natty said...

Maybe you could find an intern/volunteer/aspiring writer who also wants peace and quiet? If you bill it as a "silent writers' retreat"...