Violence prevention and intervention program opens its doors to the public
Literally and figuratively, Safe Place finally has a home.
Safe Place (not to be confused with Safe Space, the winter homeless shelter) is Chico State’s program for violence prevention and intervention. It serves students, faculty and staff—notably victims and survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking—via support and advocacy.
Previously under the auspices of the University Police Department, Safe Place now falls under the umbrella of Health Services, per a legislative change in the CSU system last summer.
A fringe benefit of the administrative move is a physical move, to a location more inviting than an office building.
Safe Place now inhabits 633 Brice Ave.—the last house on the left in a cul-de-sac off Warner Street. UMatter, the campus mental health outreach program, shares the space, though Safe Place has more area. Both programs welcomed visitors Monday morning (April 11) for Safe Place’s open house.
“The building was chosen in part because it is on its own, so [it’s] a little more of a private space for people to access services,” said Alex Brown, advocate and administrator since September, a month before Safe Place began its relocation. “Also, I think because of the homey environment of it, it makes it more comfortable and relaxing for folks.”
Comfort is key. Victims and survivors often are reluctant to report intimate violence, Brown said, and not just to law enforcement; the term “report” also can apply to opening up with family, friends, spouse/partner, an advocate or a counselor.
The university-owned house has an entry room with computers and materials on desks. Other rooms—some open, some private—flow off the sides. It fits a program with both public and confidential purposes.
“I think it’s a great move,” said Chelsea Giese, a Chico State student interning at Safe Place. “One of the best parts is it’s close enough to campus that it’s not inconvenient, but it’s far enough away that people feel a sense of safety and privacy.
“It also has a very good feel inside the house. The rooms feel very warm, very cozy, and it’s a good place for someone who is in crisis to have a couch to sit on, a nice painting [to see] and a window to look at the yard and feel a sense of peace.”
The house is a refuge but not a shelter; rather, it’s a resource center focused specifically on the campus community.
Safe Place has set hours and offers specific services. Brown, a social worker, can provide counseling, but her primary aim is to get victims and survivors all the support they need from an array of sources. Brown and her team also work on prevention. Efforts range from discussions involving the “Healthy Relationships Wheel” (adapted from a UMatter teaching tool) to public presentations.
Safe Place isn’t unique. The University of New Hampshire, for instance, has SHARPP (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program). UNH student Lacey Ryder, a Safe Place intern this spring, says SHARPP is situated in a similar house.
“It is definitely a program that’s well-known around campus,” Ryder said. “There’s a lot of students and faculty who promote it and make sure people are aware that it’s a campus resource.”
That’s the goal for Safe Place, which is now fully operational and scheduled the open house in April to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“I would like to see Safe Place really known for its prevention and awareness as much as for its intervention,” Giese said, “and the house itself to be a place where people can come and there’s not stigma attached to it.”
Added Brown: “We’re starting to develop roots in this space to do the work that we really want to do.”