Last week I had a story published in The Forecaster called “‘Yes means yes’: Changing the way Maine looks at sexual violence.” I wrote the story in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which happens every April, and it ran in every edition of the paper.
Although this awareness month happens every year, I found that sexual assault occurs at a much more alarming frequency – every 107 seconds. In Maine, which is where I focused my reporting, the numbers are thankfully lower than that.
The story was born out of a desire to write about something meaningful and a frustration with writing endless Town Council stories. I only spend a day or two on most of the stories I write for The Forecaster, but I took almost four weeks to research and write this one. Over the past month, I had countless interviews with rape and sexual assault centers, prevention education organizations, high school teachers, college Title IX coordinators, and finally, just before the article was due, a survivor of sexual assault.
Talking to Ali Ragan about her experience was difficult, and was one of the more moving interviews I’ve ever done. For someone who has been through such a traumatic experience, she was very open and confident. Despite her strength, I could tell how deeply affected she was by it.
“No one wants this to be their story.” – Ali Ragan
Ali talks openly about her experience with the hope that she can keep it from happening to someone else. She told me talking about it makes people more aware, which will lead them (both men and women) to think more carefully about their actions. The prevention education organizations I spoke with said the same things.
I hope my article can also make people more aware of the effects of sexual assault and what they can do to prevent it. Doing this story allowed me to see my “journalist self” in a new light. My career doesn’t have to be relegated to just stories about town ordinances and budgets. I can write stories about things that matter to me, and things that will hopefully have an affect on the people reading them.
I want to write stories that I can really dive into and report deeply on. I want to investigate issues and bring them to light, even if that means reporting on the things people don’t want to talk about. Before writing this article I obviously knew that reporters write stories like this, but doing it myself gave me confidence in the fact that I can be that kind of journalist.