Ashlynd

Ashlynd Huffman at the 2020 Oklahoma Press Association Luncheon where she received the 2020 Ray Lokey Memorial award for Excellence in Reporting.

Nobody talks about the trauma journalists face while working, and the way we are affected by some of the things we cover.

The series Hidden in Plain Sight focused on the horrors of child sexual abuse and the effect it has on survivors. This topic is difficult for people to read but it was also difficult to write.

I knew the basics of what I wanted this project to be, what I wanted it to say and the impact I hoped it would have. What I didn’t know was how the series would impact me as a person and a journalist.

I went to a dark place while working on this series, it’s hard to laugh and be happy while listening to someone’s worst moments in life, and that went on for most of the year.

Even though the work was hard on me emotionally, I knew it was something worth completing.

The series was about educating people in the community and giving survivors a platform to tell their stories. But when I started looking into doing this as a project I couldn’t have imagined the level of impact it would have on the survivors and the community.

The four survivors in the series were brave, raw and honest and went above and beyond to help educate. They were vulnerable and talked about the worst moments of their life, to save another child from sexual violence.

How it started

In 2020 Facebook and other social media platforms were filled with the #SaveOurChildren movement that gained a lot of traction, before suddenly disappearing. I knew during that time that I wanted to write in-depth on child sexual abuse. But, I was in the middle of finishing up my first investigative series on adult sexual assaults and the lack of prosecution in Payne County, so I tabled that idea for later.

Once January hit, I began thinking of what I could do and looking into who would be good sources. The process of writing and completing a series like this is tedious and it took nine months to complete.

What I learned

When I started conducting interviews and reaching out to the survivors, I was scared. I was scared to retraumatize these women, I was scared they would be publicly shamed for reporting later in life, and I was scared that people wouldn’t care about their stories.

What I learned was, the community was receptive to the stories, and people appreciated us taking on such a hard but important topic.

I would like people in the community to know that although this series wasn’t pleasant to read each day it was published, the topic is important. Throughout every interview the term “silent epidemic” was used by every source.

What started as a small idea, blossomed into an eight-part series, something I am proud to have accomplished. My byline may be the one on all the stories, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the sources who spoke to me and the support I have at the Stillwater News Press.

Contact Ashlynd Huffman at ahuffman@stwnewspress.com.

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