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PSU, local agency partner to combat sexual violence

May 06, 2013 12:00AM

A collaboration between Pittsburg State University and a local agency for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking is paying big dividends.

Brooke Powell, a victims advocate for Safehouse, said having an office on campus, combined with renewed education efforts, have allowed her to serve a growing number of people.

“The number of victims I’ve seen from the campus community has tripled since 2011,” Powell said.

Powell credited that increase to better awareness of the services available, education about the various forms of domestic violence and sexual assault and having a convenient, on-campus location to serve the campus community.

“I don’t believe there’s a greater incidence of abuse,” Powell said, “but more victims are becoming aware that there is help available.”

Powell said part of her work involves educating students and others in the campus community about what abuse is.

“At its basic level, abuse comes down to the perpetrator wanting power and control,” Powell said. “A lot of people think that abuse is just physical, but it can be verbal and emotional, as well.”

The victims may be among the last to recognize the problem.

“I’ve given presentations on campus and afterward had someone come up to me and say, ‘My gosh! I’ve been living that!’” Powell said.

J.T. Knoll, wellness and prevention coordinator, said Powell also coordinates Students for Violence Prevention (SVP), a student peer-education group.

“Students talking to their peers is one of the most effective and powerful ways to get the message across to other students,” Knoll said. “SVP has done a great job this past year and some of the credit for our ability to increase service to victims of sexual violence and stalking should go to them, as well.”

Steve Erwin, associate vice president for campus life and auxiliary services, said the relationship with Safehouse and the opening of an office on campus grew out of the university’s history of working with the community and established community organizations.

“We actually came upon the idea to collaborate with Safehouse because we had successfully collaborated with SEK-CAP on SafeRide,” Erwin said.

Knoll added that Safehouse executive director, Rebecca Brubaker, was very excited about the collaboration, because she believed having an advocate on campus would increase the number of students getting support and guidance.

Erwin said working with Safehouse allows the university to have a trained, part-time professional on campus to serve students at a relatively small cost.

“It is a win for the university and a win for Safehouse,” Erwin said. “But most importantly, it is a win for students and others on campus whose lives are improved through the services Safehouse offers.

Erwin said growth of the campus Safehouse office was slow, at first.

“Since Brook came in 2011, we’ve seen the office take on a new life,” Erwin said.

PSU’s success with the Safehouse office on campus is getting noticed around the state.

“I presented at the Governor’s Victims’ Rights Conference in early April and the room was full,” Powell said. “There were representatives from several state universities and they were very interested in learning how to make this work in their communities.”

To contact the Safehouse Crisis Center, Inc.:

Crisis Hotline - 1-800-794-9148

Office - 620-231-8692

PSU Office - 620-235-4831

©2013 Pittsburg State University