Digital Engagement Editor Bryce Martin: My survivor story
My palms grew sweaty and my heart started to race as I approached the front door to meet my semi-blind date.
It was the first time I would meet this guy, having chatted with him for a few weeks on Facebook. I was tense. I didn’t quite know what to expect.
I was an impressionable 18-year-old college student at the time, in 2006. I had just recently revealed my sexuality and wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into with this evening rendezvous. Yes, I had many dates prior to that night, but it was always somewhere public. This was the first time I would meet a guy who I didn’t know at his home. At night. In rural Michigan.
I remember feeling chills when he answered the door. There was a lump in my throat that I couldn’t easily clear. Something made me feel especially on edge, but I didn’t realize what I was. Foolishly, I stepped inside and he closed the door behind me.
About an hour later, I was back in my car, tears streaked down my face. My clothing was disheveled; I heard a ringing in my ears. I continued to replay in my mind the events that had just occurred. I sped across the dark, dirt roads as quickly as I could. I didn’t know what to do or who to tell. So, like so many people in this situation, I kept it to myself and continued on with life.
I had been sexually assaulted.
Over the ensuing days, I couldn’t shake the tumult I felt. It was my fault, right? I had put myself into that situation. All I could do was blame myself. It was years before the memory at least began to fade.
When I first heard that the Steamboat Pilot & Today was working on the In Our Shoes series, I was still working as editor of the Pilot’s sister publication, Sky-Hi News, in Granby. I was so proud to learn that these talented journalists were tackling such a topic. When I read the first survivor story, I felt such despair as my mind quickly snapped back to that night so long ago in Michigan. But I suddenly felt — even as ubiquitous as sexual assault is — that I was not alone.
It would be about a month later that I would join the Pilot team and actually have a part working on the series. Still, I kept my story to myself even though I engaged in many discussions about the series’ content, read all the installments and heard the difficult stories from people who experienced assault.
This is the first time I’ve publicly shared my story. It truly feels cathartic to write these words. I likely would never have shared if it weren’t for the commitment by the Pilot to work through this searing topic, displaying so much compassion, empathy and professionalism along the way.
It was the series, the people in this newsroom and the people who shared their stories that really made me feel the urge to want to do something, not to atone for my past experience but to help people understand the insurmountable need to speak up and speak out.
I thank the editorial team at the Pilot and its fearless leader, Lisa Schlichtman, for not only allowing me to join this great team, but for also allowing me to share one of the darkest times of my life and having the opportunity to now grow because of it.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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