“The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
As I thought about Waitsfield resident Anna Nasset’s new book, “Now I Speak,” the two opening lines from the 1950s TV police show, “Dragnet,” unexpectedly appeared in my mind.
But there’s irony.
In this true story, some names are changed, and a few names are redacted, but no one is protected - especially Anna Nasset.
From a Centers for Disease Control document on violence prevention: One in three women and one in six men will be stalked.*
She writes: This is my story, recalled with great care to detail and truth, taking into account over a decade of psychological trauma in the form of stalking and nearly a lifetime of gender-based and sexual violence at the hands of various men.
A stalker enters the writer’s life on November 4, 2011.
What follows is a telling of nearly eight years of increasing uncertainty, confusion, terror, isolation, anger, and grief.
Throughout, she struggles with her balance in decision-making to report incidents for evidence/protection or not, to avoid increasing her stalker’s anger, disgusting behavior and/or frequency of unwanted contacts.
It’s a story of close friends, networks of other friends, a labyrinth of police, detectives, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, jurisdictions and the ability of a stalker to dance on the legal tightrope of enforcement, taunting, successfully rendering his victim terrified,
Nearly eight grueling years later, September 8, 2019, there is some relief, but its duration is uncertain.
This is also a story of rebirth. Forced to close a successful art gallery in Port Townsend, Washington, Nasset endures severe emotional, financial, physical and friendship deterioration, culminating with a move to the Mad River Valley. From these ashes, and support of new friends, she finds her calling, one she could never imagine.
In the middle of this chaos, while the stalking continues, she manages to rebuild herself, become a highly-sought national speaker on the issue, and establish a design service, Stand Up Services, which provides marketing, design, and development for victim service agencies.
Beyond the telling of her story, which any rational person put in her situation would find horrific, she puts forth other perspectives in the book that are not often seriously considered in a widening web of intertwining relationships, and are worthy of pondering:
— The category of victims extends beyond the person who is the target: friends, associates, members of the public who participate in activities related to the target are all at risk here. Her realization of this scope is vividly recounted.
— Unwarranted blame is not only experienced by the victim, but also by people associated with the perpetrator, who are equally helpless to alter the course of events. Nasset writes of a chance meeting with the stalker’s mother - it is a remarkable moment.
— People needing care for their mental health issues are not painted with one brush. Nasset gently parses out the nuances that distinguish those coping with personal issues from those who pose a threat to a community’s well-being.
Her message is simple: believe, support and advocate for victims of these crimes.
Sadly, this message rings true today, locally:
The Saturday, July 29, edition of the online news source, Vermont Digger, ran this headline and story:
The Montpelier Police Department affidavit noted that, “Reis Winkeljohn, 27, of Montpelier, allegedly sent lewd photos to a 15-year-old worker he was supervising at the Hunger Mountain Co-op. Police alleged that other young women made similar complaints to store management, which reportedly dismissed them.”
Disturbingly, the story reported that the affidavit detailed that, “…there were six previous complaints brought to the co-op’s management by young female employees, all involving Winkeljohn’s alleged behavior. Co-op management later said the six complaints were ‘unfounded’ and four of the employees who brought the complaints quit…”
We owe it to our communities to read this book - especially the victim’s impact statement - and remember Anna Nasset’s message: believe, support and advocate for victims of these crimes.
Noble lives in Warren.