High school senior podcast looks at sexual assault in Jackson

JACKSON, WY — For many, Jackson Hole can feel like a haven — an outdoor paradise immune from the stressors and ills of the rest of the world.

But for at least as many, that image is just a mirage. Jackson is far from immune to cultural, societal, and economic woes that afflict our neighboring communities. Jackson Hole Community School senior Natally Hernandez spent the last semester of her high school career investigating one such issue: sexual assault.

Hernandez had one driving question behind her research: why is it so hard for women in Jackson who have endured sexual assault to speak up about it?  She talked to local experts who work with sexual assault survivors: Daniela Peterson from La Familia Counseling, Jordan Rich from the Community Safety Network, Lieutenant Roger Shultz from the Jackson Hole Police Department, Nataly Espinosa from Teton County Victim Services, and attorney Becket Hinkley. She also interviewed Claire Andrews, a sexual assault survivor.

Turns out, many of the things that make Jackson feel so unique are also what make it so challenging for sexual assault survivors. Jackson is a small town. There’s hardly such thing as anonymity. And a large majority of sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim. So the consequences of reporting can feel insurmountable.

The final product of Hernandez’s research is a roughly 20-minute podcast. Why a podcast? She could have written an in-depth research paper on sexual assault, Hernandez said. But it feels more impactful to hear directly from the experts, and especially from the survivor. They have a wealth of personal knowledge and experience that a research paper might not capture.

So this month, instead of making our own podcast about the same subject, Buckrail will share Hernandez’s hard work. You can meet Hernandez and learn more about her project at the Jackson Hole Community School senior symposium Wednesday, May 29 at 10 a.m.

Listen to the podcast below, online, or on Apple Podcasts (just search “Buckrail).

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