Pilot & Today editor to receive award for ‘In Our Shoes’ reporting series
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The editor of Steamboat Pilot & Today has been selected as the recipient of a prestigious award from the state’s largest advocate organization for survivors of sexual assault.
Lisa Schlichtman, who has headed the newsroom since 2013, will receive the Presidential Award from the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance during the 31st annual COVA Conference, Oct. 27 to 30, in Keystone.
Steamboat Springs City Council member Lisel Petis, who also serves as the executive director of Advocates of Routt County, said the award honors Schlichtman’s leadership on a recent series on sexual assault, published in the newspaper this summer.
The eight-week series, titled “In Our Shoes,” took an in-depth look at the issues of sexual violence and what can be done to solve them.
Petis said it is rare for someone outside the realm of law enforcement or survivor assistance to receive the Presidential Award, which is only given out when the organization finds someone they feel has gone “above and beyond” the call to end sexual violence. She was one of four people who sent letters to the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance to nominate Schlichtman for an award.
Petis commended the editor’s work not only on the series itself, but also the time Schlichtman volunteered at the various community events throughout the summer. Those culminated in a performance art exhibition at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
“This wasn’t just a work thing for her,” Petis said. “She was dedicating her personal time.”
Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen, Steamboat Creates member Sarah Valentino and Pilot & Today publisher Logan Molen also sent letters of support.
“Lisa’s leadership on this project demonstrated the courage and dedication necessary to tackle a transformational topic that has never been addressed in our public spaces before,” Valentino said in her letter.
Two months after the completion of the “In Our Shoes” series, Petis and Christensen said they have seen positive changes in how the local community deals with and talks about sexual assault.
Most notably, according to Petis, Advocates has received more calls for support from survivors.
“I don’t think that crime is increasing,” she said, pointing instead to a greater openness in talking about and reporting sexual assault.
Petis has heard people talk frankly about the issue during her book club discussions and at some of the nonprofit organizations where she volunteers her time.
“That is the quintessential first step to social change,” she said.
Some recent survivors, when seeking assistance from Advocates, said they felt more comfortable coming forward after reading the series, according to Petis.
Christensen said the eight-week series has brought more understanding of the severity of sexual assault and its impact on people and communities. While discussions on the issue have been common among law enforcement for years, he believes progress will require everyone to work toward solutions, no matter how uncomfortable such work can become.
In his letter, Christensen commended Schlichtman’s ability to address a complicated topic with sensitivity and compassion.
“To be willing to wade into the darkness that is sexual assault — I know it has impact,” he said.
In Our Shoes is an eight-part series about sexual assault in Steamboat Springs and Routt County published by the Steamboat Pilot every Wednesday, from June 5 to July 24.
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Editor’s note: To protect the identity of the victim in this story, Steamboat Pilot & Today has used a pseudonym to identify the victim and the defendant. This story focuses on domestic violence.