From the Editor: Shining a light on sexual assault in Steamboat Springs
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On Wednesday, June 5, the Steamboat Pilot & Today is launching an in-depth reporting project we’re calling “In Our Shoes” — an eight-week series focused on the issue of sexual assault in Steamboat Springs and Routt County.
The name for the series originated from the idea that you can’t really understand what someone’s gone through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. We have taken that concept and applied it to our reporting, and it’s also serving as the basis for the July 27 culminating event we’re planning as a way to bring the community together to begin discussing a topic that is normally shrouded in shame and fear.
By reporting on the issue over the next eight weeks and then bringing people together to openly discuss sexual assault using art as a vehicle for more open conversation, we hope to shine light on a local problem that has remained in the shadows for far too long.
Some may be asking, “why this topic?” and “why now?” So let me explain.
Seven months ago, I began searching for a project that would flex and challenge the collective reporting muscles of the Steamboat Pilot & Today news team. My attention soon turned to the issue of sexual assault for a number of reasons.
The content of this series can be upsetting or triggering in relation to a trauma you directly or indirectly have experienced. Advocates of Routt County offers 24/7 support. Reach out confidentially to an advocate by calling the crisis line at 970-879-8888.
Nationally, prominent women were coming forward to talk about the issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The powerful #MeToo movement, combined with the Brett Kavanaugh hearings live broadcast, made this a timely topic and then there were the stories that had been shared with me over the years by women living in Steamboat Springs who had survived sexual assault. Their stories of being roofied at local bars and then assaulted haunted me, and I knew now was the right time to delve into the issue.
I also wanted to test the notion that the party atmosphere of a ski resort town, which is transient in nature, could be creating an environment where sexual assault was occurring too frequently and too easily. This series sets out to get to the bottom of that hypothesis — first, by looking at data and establishing the fact that sexual assault is indeed a problem in Steamboat Springs and other mountain towns, and then by focusing on other topics like barriers to reporting sexual assault, options for reporting, factors in our communities that could contribute to sexual assault and resources for surviving sexual assault and preventing it.
This series is a true collaboration. Along the way, we’ve met survivors who have courageously agreed to share their stories with us to help others heal as well as local professionals and volunteers who are on the frontlines of fighting sexual assault — those who counsel survivors, those who prosecute the perpetrators and those who work with local school districts to educate young people about healthy relationships and issues like power and consent.
During this process, we also discovered an opportunity for meaningful collaboration with community organizations and entities who have joined our vision of not only reporting on sexual assault but sparking a community conversation to create change.
Advocates of Routt County, Steamboat Creates and Young Blood Collectives have come alongside us as we plan for an event that will bring the series to life through a locally curated exhibit of shoes created by individuals who are sexual assault survivors or whose lives have been touched by sexual assault. This event will also include spoken word and other performances that will focus on courage, healing and empowerment aimed at fostering an open dialogue within our community about an issue that impacts the lives of many. We’ve also received support from Routt County United Way, Mind Springs Health, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and The BARley, who are helping to underwrite the event.
As the series unfolds over the next eight weeks, we hope you’ll engage with us on this important topic. Maybe you’re a survivor who would like to share your story with us, maybe you’d like to become a volunteer advocate to support victims of sexual assault or maybe there is a hole in our reporting that you want us to address. You’re also invited to participate in the In Our Shoes event by creating a pair of shoes for the exhibit or contributing to the spoken word portion of the program. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and join the conversation.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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